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Really, don't we all know by now that finding examples of teens' and twentysomethings' ignorance is like shooting fish in a barrel?

If you want to exercise your eye-rolling or hand-wringing muscles, take your pick.

The volunteers learned to interpret the cards even with the distracting beeps, but when they were asked about the cards afterward, the multitaskers did worse.

"Multitasking adversely affects how you learn," Poldrack said at the time.

Two thirds of high-school seniors in 2006 couldn't explain an old photo of a sign over a theater door reading COLORED ENTRANCE.

In 2001, 52 percent identified Germany, Japan or Italy, not the Soviet Union, as America's World War II ally.

"Multitasking forces the brain to share processing resources," he says, "so even if the tasks don't use the same regions [talking and driving do not], there is some shared infrastructure that gets overloaded." Chronic multitasking —texting and listening to your i Pod and updating your Facebook page while studying for your exam on the Italian Renaissance—might also impair learning, as a 2006 study suggested.

Scientists at UCLA led by Russell Poldrack scanned the brains of adults ages 18 to 45 while they learned to interpret symbols on flashcards either in silence or while also counting high-pitched beeps they heard.The apathy of 2005 is more a reflection of the world outside Gen-Yers' heads than inside, and one that we bet has changed tack with the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. Bauerlein is not the first scholar to pin the blame for a younger generation's intellectual shortcomings on new technology (television, anyone?), in this case indicting "the digital age." But there is no empirical evidence that being immersed in instant messaging, texting, i Pods, videogames and all things online impairs thinking ability."We are gradually changing from a nation of callused hands to a nation of agile brains," says cognitive scientist Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University. The ideal experiment is hard to pull off: to study the effect of digital technology on cognitive processing in a rigorous way, you must randomly assign groups of young people to use it a lot, a little or not at all, then follow them for years."Insofar as new information technology exercises our minds and provides more information, it has to be improving thinking ability."We think that even English professors should respect the difference between correlation and causation: just because ignorance of big lakes and oratorios got worse when the digital age dawned doesn't mean that the latter caused the former. As one 19-year-old of our acquaintance said about the chances of getting teens to volunteer for the "not at all" group, "Are you out of your [deleted] mind?Gen Y cares less about knowing information than knowing where to find information.

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