Saying What No One Wants to Hear

The adults in the room have no one to blame but themselves for the mess that is the younger generation.

Virgil’s Aeneas knew where to find the treasure trove of ripened human wisdom: He sought the words of his crippled father, Anchises, “the best of fathers.” Unlike its Homeric antecedents, the Aeneid was not a celebration of eclectic Odyssean capacity, nor was it a portrayal of the hubris inherent in an Achillean quest for glory. Aeneas understood human flourishing required intellectual and moral absorption of what had come before.

Thus, Mark Bauerlein begins his new book, The Dumbest Generation Grows Up, by asking the most relevant and pressing question of our time: What have we done to them? The “them” is millennials and the honest answer is: We murdered Anchises.  

In many ways, The Dumbest Generation Grows Up is Bauerlein’s love letter to a life of deep and passionate reading. The displacement of books by computer and phone screens has altered the moral ecology of human life for an entire generation of Americans. But the die had been cast long before Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey dug their digital talons into the hearts and minds of the millennial generation.

The strongest section of The Dumbest Generation Grows Up details the decades-long process in which adults have willingly forfeited any claim to moral or intellectual authority. Universities canceled the core and the canon and let teenagers pick and choose what they study. Revolutionary juveniles were allowed to fuel their outrage with sentimental victimhood instead of grasping the significance of what they are attempting to overthrow. The muscular intellectual spirit of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau in the French Revolution finds no kindred spirit in the braindead landscape of modern university life.