Are today’s college students less academically engaged?

Emory English professor, Mark Bauerlein, has an excellent article in the upcoming issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education in which he describes two simultaneous trends among today’s college students: the growing fascination with all things technological and the shrinking engagement with anything classically academic.

Writes Bauerlein, “The trends are not unrelated. The more young people gather to watch TV shows, transmit e-mail and text messages, and blog and chat and surf and download, the less they attend to their regular studies. What develops is an acute peer consciousness, a sense of themselves as a distinct group.”

Bauerlein notes five important areas where the knowledge levels of college students has either dropped or remained flat, indicating that “Young people are cut off from the worlds beyond their social circuit.”

So, what do we do? Bauerlein does not offer an answer, but notes that the inevitable time crunch when students spend more time sending text messages than reading text books forces stark options. One can go with the wind, as did a literature professor who said, “Look, I don’t care if everybody stops reading literature. Yeah, it’s my bread and butter, but cultures change. People do different things.”

Or one stand against the wind, siding with Leo Strauss that “liberal education is the counter-poison to mass culture.”

Surely there is a third option. What is it?

Nathan D Wilson

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