Bend the Round

…where the madness is recorded.

Dumbing Down of America January 31, 2008

Filed under: rant — bendtheround @ 5:12 pm

To an extent, I was very fortunate in my education. I was able to go to school in the same place from first grade all the way through high school graduation. The school was small and the classes were *usually* at least somewhat reasonably sized. I was also privileged to go through school with a group of remarkably intelligent classmates. The top quarter of my class was extremely bright. When we graduated, the first row and a half of the class had a GPA exceeding 4.0 (due to the availability of Advanced Placement courses, which were weighted in the GPA calculation).

And yet, when this remarkable group hit middle school (sixth grade) something awful started to happen. A lot of these very bright kids started acting stupid. They knew the answers. They were fully capable of doing the work. They chose not to. Somehow, they became convinced that being smart and trying at all wasn’t cool. Getting good grades, exercising their curiosity… no longer important. Even the kids who still did well in class would more often than not still behave like their IQ had been halved.

It drove me crazy even then. I remember asking my mother what was WRONG with them…he’s so SMART! Why is he acting so STUPID on purpose??

Hey, I know some of the brain drain goes along with puberty. I’ve acted like a moron when my head’s turned. I know how that goes. But I was never convinced that the interest in the opposite sex fully explained the voluntary dumbing down.

Knowing something of history, science, grammar…these aren’t bad things. Quite the opposite – they are valuable beyond my ability to express.
How did it happen? Where did people get the idea that it’s more important to look good, have the right clothes/electronics/whatever, be good at sports, know about the latest gossip on celebrities than it is to exercise one’s mind? I simply do not know.

I fully allow that people have interests that aren’t purely academic. In fact, interests that aren’t purely academic are important – and that’s the point. There is no reason that you can’t be up to date on the latest on the music scene, an excellent athlete, physically attractive, and still exercise your God-given intelligence.

I recently saw the movie Idiotcracy (starring Luke Wilson). The premise of the movie is that because less intelligent, less educated people tend to have more children than more intelligent, more educated people, the human population basically has intelligence bred out. Only the remarkably stupid remain. It was a comedy, but occasionally, it’s a little scary because I swear sometimes that it could happen. (I’m sure it won’t…)

I’m at a complete loss to come up with any sort of way to deal with this. Is it a matter of a failure in the education system? Is it a matter of needed a radical change in cultural values? Maybe it’s a matter of money… people can’t afford both an education and the time, effort, and expense of children. I suspect it’s some combination of these and plenty of others.

If you doubt that this is a real issue, I’d like to point you to a video on Google Video. I’d also like to point out the embedded hope in the video – it was done by some very promising students. I hope they continue exercising their minds. We can’t afford having too many people’s brain cells engaged in a never-ending game of hide-and-seek.


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