The Dumbest Generation?

The generation that is most comfortable with digital technology, which gives them unprecedented access to all of the world’s knowledge, knows less than the previous generation that lacked this advantage. In other words, the generations whose thumbs do most of their talking can’t express themselves beyond the level of a text message. Could the vast majority of people under the age of 30 (Gen Y and the youngest Gen Xers) be so clueless?

Regrettably the answer is yes.  According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 74 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds did not know that Condolezza Rice was the U.S. Secretary of State.  Six times more of these young adults were more likely to identify the latest winner of American Idol than the Speaker of the House of Representatives.   Another 60 percent did not know the Civil War took place in the second half of the 19th century.

This is a generation who grew up reading blogs instead of books. They read updates about friends on MySpace instead of reading current events in newspapers.  They know more about World of Warcraft than they do about World War II.

The result is that just one-third of high school seniors graduated with the ability to read proficiently.  Just one-fourth could write a basic paragraph.

The problem is that many young adults are using technology to communicate rather than to learn.  In effect by using shorthand texting, they are reinforcing their own illiteracy every time they send and receive a text message. 

What’s this mean for employers:

1. In a world of scarce talent, employers will need to transform themselves to make effective use of a generation that isn’t ready to contribute to the traditional workplace.  As a result, companies will have to invest in training programs that offer a crash course in the basic skills these workers lack. These programs will need to be tailored so that they are relevant to the actual work the employee will perform.

2. The small percentage of well-educated, high achieving college students will have their choice of employers and competition for them will be fierce. While this isn’t new news, what’s different this time around is that the gap between the-best-and-the-brightest and the average graduate is much wider. Because the return on investment is so much greater for these star performers, employers can be certain that the competition for talent will only be getting more intense.

Source: Trends E-Magazine, July 2008

Read more about the Silent Epidemic of high school dropouts.


Ira S Wolfe


  1. Ira S Wolfe July 14, 2008 at 10:49 am -

    Trends is subscription based so I don’t know if this link will work. But the URL to the article is

  2. Warren July 14, 2008 at 6:03 am -

    Does anyone have a link to the original Trends e-magazine article?