- Politics and Social Issues
The Dumbing Down of America: A Moment With Bill Reflection
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For most of my life I have laughed at conspiracy nuts. I would hear their ramblings, read their “proof” and then laugh in their general direction, convinced that they all needed a padded room and a straight-jacket so they couldn’t harm themselves or others.
So it is with more than a little chagrin that I state I am beginning to think that there is a grand conspiracy in action right now to dumb down the United States of America. I am beginning to suspect that somewhere in some deep subterranean tunnel below Washington D.C., there are people who are doing their damndest to make sure Americans think less. I can think of no other explanation for what I am witnessing these days. How else do we explain it? It is too frightening to think that this is just some random happenstance, that suddenly 300 million people have turned stupid overnight, and there is no explanation for it. Much better, me thinks, to give it a name, give it a face, and blame it on Big Brother.
I will go even further in my ramblings and state that I believe this conspiracy has been going on for over twenty years, and we as a nation have silently gone along with it, like cattle on a conveyor belt, heading for that pistol shot to the brainpan and blessed oblivion.
But how can I expect you to agree with me unless I show you evidence that supports my conspiracy theory? How silly of me! Please, allow me to point out the facts and then I’ll let you decide if I should be fitted for one of those “special” jackets.
Stop, Children, What’s That Sound, Everybody Look What’s Going Down!
Look around you! Do you see it? Look in the front window of practically every home in America and you’ll see the little family huddled around their television set during prime time watching….reality television.
Yes, reality television, that phenomenon that seems to now have a life of its own. Reality television, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, bend steel in its bare hands and shrink our collective IQ in a matter of minutes.
Reality TV first came on the American scene in 1948 with the debut of Alan Funt’s Candid Camera, a show that orchestrated bizarre events and then chronicled the reactions of unsuspecting citizens. It was an immediate success, and gave birth to a seemingly never-ending array of shows that spun-off of this successful formula. Today, Americans can’t seem to get their fill, tuning in by the millions to watch shows like American Idol, The Voice, X Factor, Survivor, America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars.
Even the History Channel, long a bastion for learning, has succumbed to this conspiracy, offering us shows like Ice Road Truckers and Pawn Stars. History? Who needs it when we can entertain the starving masses with elaborately-staged mini-dramas starring Redman-chewing truckers navigating dangerous roads in the Yukon and Alaska?
Be afraid, folks! Be very afraid!
Numbers Don’t Lie
The computer and the internet: where would we be without them, right?
The average American spends 32 hours per month on the internet, and 92% of that time is reading and writing emails.
32 hours! Over one day per month! The percentage is higher, of course, for children, a fact that should instill fear in the hearts of every parent.
85% of Americans have complete faith in the internet to provide information for them, and Google receives an astounding 1.2 billion searches each day.
This may seem hard to believe, but I made it through my entire childhood without the internet. We managed to actually live a life without the World Wide Web. We did things like ride our bicycles and do chores. We explored our neighborhoods and we invented games. Believe it or not, we interacted with people face to face, in person, without the aid of electronic gadgetry.
I know some of you are going to ask what this has to do with dumbing down an entire society, and I would say to you that as long as the masses are entertained and subdued by that 18-inch screen, there is no concern on the part of the government that the people will ever stop and smell the stink coming from Washington D.C., and make no mistake about it, there is a serious stench coming from the east….shhhh….don’t say a word and it will all go away……go make another YouTube video and don’t worry about it….it will all go away once you have received your electronic placebo.
No Child Left Behind
- No Child Left Behind - ED.gov
Information on the Act that has spelled doom for American education
Am I the only one who thinks that the youth of America are collectively ignorant? I know, I know, your son is on the honor roll and headed for Stanford, and little Suzie is on scholarship at Yale and all is right in your world…..but…..I’m talking about an overall feeling of rising ignorance.
I will be happy to tell you when this trend began. As a former teacher with eighteen years of classroom experience behind me, I can pinpoint the date when the great downhill slide began. Are you ready?
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed in 1994 to ensure that all states had rigorous standards for all subject areas and grade levels. This was then carried forward and tweaked in 2001 by President Bush in the famous “No Child Left Behind Act.”
The priorities of these acts were as follows:
- High academic standards and expectations for all students
- Tests that are more rigorous and more challenging, to measure whether students are meeting those standards
- Accountability systems that provide incentives and rewards for educators, students and parents to work together to help students reach these standards.
All well and good, right? What’s wrong with having high standards? Nothing at all until you tie Federal funding onto testing results. Suddenly every school in America sees the wisdom of scoring well on those standardized tests, and suddenly every curriculum in America is geared towards teaching to the tests rather than educating.
The results can be seen today. Several generations of students have graduated, most capable of taking a test, but totally clueless about anything outside of the test parameters. What about critical thinking skills? Gone the way of the Do-Do bird. What of problem-solving skills? Bye, bye Miss American Pie!
Let’s Take a Look at the Real Proof
I’m sure many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. Maybe some of you still have your doubts about the dumbing down of America. After all, it is not fun admitting that we have become, as a society, dumber than ever before in history. Sheez, that’s an unpleasant thought, right?
Well consider this then; this will be our litmus test on whether I am right or I am wrong.
Go to the closest shopping mall and carry on a conversation with ten random people and then tell me if you don’t think we might have lost a bit of our intelligence over the years. Heck, sit on a park bench and listen to people as they pass by. Go on Facebook and watch the random posts as they flash on the screen. I will do that on occasion and honestly, I don’t even recognize the conversation as being English.
Let’s switch gears for a moment.
I read a writing tip once that said writers should keep it simple. They should not raise the bar too high with their vocabulary lest they lose some of their audience. I have to be honest with you. That saddens me. Writers should dumb down in order to reach a broader audience? How about we raise the intelligence level of the audience instead of watering down the level of the Arts?
Moving Towards Our Destiny
The sound of those cattle on the conveyor belt, waiting with complacency and apathy as they approach the pistol shot to the brain. Can you hear them? Do you see them? They are our countrymen and women and they are all around us, draining us of our intellect and infecting us with their “Intelligence Light” ……less filling, tastes great!
Now I’m not one to complain and shake the bell of alarm without offering a solution or two, so here they are in no particular order.
Get your kids outside and away from the television and computer. Set a specific viewing limit and then stick with it.
Get involved with your children. Take them on nature walks where you all learn about the plants and animals that you see. Go on road trips and learn the history and geology of the area.
Get involved in your local school and school board. Change happens locally and if you want to see educational change then you must demand it.
If you are a business owner then demand that learning occur. Offer seminars for all of your employees, and off them for free. You can only benefit from a more intelligent workforce.
Demand that Federal funding based on test results be abolished in the country. Allow teachers to once again teach a complete curriculum. Give them freedom to do what they were trained to do.
And on and on we go, but no suggestion is as important as the following:
STOP BEING COMPLACENT AND START CARING
Unless, of course, you think the guy with the gun at the end of the conveyor belt is there to give you a tasty treat, and then by all means, enjoy the trip!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."