Whatever happened to Sw33tBabyJ4ne?

At the risk of sounding ancient, something is going on with kids today, and I don’t mean that to sound like a middle age snarl. In fact I think today’s kids are better than we were. By better, we’re talking quicker, more mature, less naive, better informed, more confident; smarter. So this poll on the most important group in that demographic in 2012, the ones old enough to vote, was fascinating:

(Link) — Younger Millennials report significant levels of movement from the religious affiliation of their childhood, mostly toward identifying as religious unaffiliated. While only 11% where religiously unaffiliated in childhood, one-quarter (25%), currently identified as unaffiliated, a 14 point increase. Catholics and white mainline Protestants saw the largest net loss due to the Millennials’ movement away from their childhood religious affiliation.

It wasn’t in the poll per see, but young adults seem a lot smarter to me than they were just a decade ago, and here’s a stab at why that might be: over my lifetime, kids who liked to read at a young age blew away their peers academically. The Internet makes kids read.  They might be IMing and Tweeting and Facebooking about something superficial, but whatever, it involves a lot of reading. If research supports the idea that any reading, regardless of content, has a positive effect on child development, then maybe huge amounts of it have more of an effect.

Because the twenty-something kids I’m seeing today have that same kind of edge in … cognitive alertness for lack of a better term, and it happens that they’re the first adult generation that read a ton and processed a shitload more info than we did, because of the Internet, starting at day one in early childhood. Maybe they’re just the front of a smart wave, and that idea makes me happy. If humanity really is on the verge of a jump anywhere near as important to our culture and technology as traditional childhood literacy has been, that’s a good omen for an uncertain and at times down right frightening future.


  1. docsarvis says

    This essay is a case study in fallacious thinking. Your premise may have some merit, but it is merely conjecture. The generation reaching adulthood may be smarter than the preceding one, but many things go into that other than texting friends and reading tweets.

    Your essay begins with an unsupported premise and is backed with unsubstantiated reasoning. Correlation does not equal causation and drawing conclusions without evidence is illogical. Further, the pulled quote has nothing to do with intelligence and thus is irrelevant in this context.

    I read your posts daily and usually enjoy them, but this one is a waste of time.

  2. The Lorax says

    It’s not just that they’re reading, it’s what they’re reading; the Internet brings a wealth of information to ones fingertips, information from all over the world. Social interaction can take place on a global scale. The world is shrinking. Any young, inquisitive mind would latch onto such a source and absorb everything. Throw in some basic moral structure, and that which is happening is simply inevitable.

  3. robb says

    one problem with the internet is that there is too much information, and much of it is of dubious quality. i don’t see that students today are learning critical thinking skills that allow them to separate the good info from the bad.

    of course this is only anecdotal, and may not be true in general.

  4. yellowsubmarine says


    Seriously dude, take a chill pill. At no point did he present this essay as anything more than conjecture. At no point did he try to claim that reading massive amounts of internet things was the only possible answer to why children seem smarter to him than his generation did at their age, or the only factor involved. He didn’t even positively claim that children ARE smarter. Only that they seem smarter to him, and the fact that more and more of them are ditching their parent’s religion in favor of no religion seems like more intelligent behavior than what we exhibited at their age. This is what was running through his mind about the intellectual state of our subsequent generations and a possible cause, that he finds intriguing and delightful, put to paper. You’re practically responding like he’s submitting it for publication. There’s no need to be a jerk about it.

  5. docsarvis says

    “You’re practically responding like he’s submitting it for publication. ”

    He did publish it, and I’m plenty chilled.

  6. docsarvis says

    I’m glad to see you are keeping this in perspective, Stephen. I’ve enjoyed your work since you started posting at Daily Kos, and read all your blog posts here. I’ll make sure I praise you next time you write an excellent post, which won’t be long. This post is the exception. I’m a professional writer too, so I know we can’t hit a home run every time we submit something. Taking criticism is part of writing.

  7. Leo says

    @docsarvis – New slogan for you: “Professional writer, part time A-hole” Criticism is one thing, but criticizing a straw man as yellowsubmarine pointed out is another.

    Anyway, I’m part of that twenty-somethings group. I can give you my own anecdotal experience that I would not be involved in the atheist movement if it were not for the internet. I’m a lifelong atheist, but I didn’t really realize it as I just didn’t know where to find good resources. It was through finding atheists online and communicating with those atheists that I was able to become the person I am today. Sure, one of my defining moments was reading a book (The God Delusion), but I’d likely have never known about the book without the internet.

  8. says

    S’ok doc, criticism is fine. As long there’s nothing silly going on, like one person posting someone else’s personal info against their wishes, I have zero desire to weigh in on what people should or should not be putting in their comments.

    Funny anecdote: I have seen with my own eyes big name columnists and VIPs virtually curl up into a ball when faced with the onslaught of comments that come with a new media post. If you can’t handle criticism, writing may not be for you, especially in this day and age where the feedback can be immediate and at times pointed.

  9. boadinum says

    I don’t want to get into the above pissing contests. I just want to agree with Andrew, and say that it’s obvious that children who learn to read early, and who actually read and love reading for its own sake are far more likely to develop critical thinking skills and to be able to think for themselves and acquire a healthy skepticism.

    Kids who use their reading skills only to play video games seem to me more likely to take things on faith (ugh)…or to become multimillionaire software developers.

    Anyhoo, to elderly people like me (40+) it is amazing what massive amounts of information kids can absorb without suffering from information overload. Granted, much of that info is garbage, but experience teaches kids how to sort the good from the crap, and to know where to find credible info. Being well-educated has nothing to do with what you cram into your head, but everything to do with knowing where to find what you need to know.

    The Internet, and Internet-savvy kids, is what will eventually doom religion. The Vatican uses the web to spread its poison; imagine the upcoming generation of techno-kids fighting back.

    The future awaits the techno-kids.

Leave a Reply