Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘public education

America, Idiocracy in the making?

with 7 comments

Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie Idiocracy should consider it. It’s about a dystopian scifi future world where the average American IQ is about 70 and the average American isn’t even literate. Granted the premise of the movie is brain-dead stupid, the idea that stupid people having children is lowering the average IQ. That aside though, it’s a lot of fun. The movie is a comedy so suspension of disbelief is pretty much required, but as modern American comedies go, it’s funny. It doesn’t have Will Farrell for one thing. And anyone smart who has been paying attention the past few decades has likely noticed some decline in the intelligence of the average American, and can only wonder if that’s where we are headed as a nation. At least that’s my thinking, here then are some of my observations along those lines.

Vocabulary. While some wild numbers have been thrown around, the consensus is still that American’s working vocabulary has declined some the past decades. There appear to be a number of reasons for this. Reading isn’t as popular as it once was. The homogenization and dumbing down of the mainstream media. Standardized national testing. However we got here, people today, especially younger people, appear to have a vocabulary less than their forbears at the same age. I’m actually sometimes surprised that a word I use isn’t understood, and it’s almost always a younger person who doesn’t understand. All is not lost, Clinton used the word disparate on TV the other day, but people as smart as him are rare.

Graffiti. Does anyone remember graffiti from the 60s or earlier? I loved going into public bathrooms as a kid, there would be jokes, poems, and witticisms abounding on the toilet stall walls. Nowadays there’s nothing but crude drawings and swear words. It’s not my imagination, the literary quality of graffiti has gone down considerably since I was a kid. Quantity is up though, and it’s a lot more stylized these days. I know trains weren’t covered with graffiti when I was a kid, they are now. Not a good sign.

Intellectuals, lack thereof. An observation from my personal life. On a trip to New Zealand my then wife and I met a couple of nice German fellows at a youth hostel. (Yes, this was awhile ago.) We invited them to visit us in California as they were planning a trip to the USA at some point. And a year or two later they did indeed drop by for a visit after hitchhiking across America. They had a question for me and my then wife. “Where are all the intellectuals?” We didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.

Other lines of evidence. American’s have the lowest IQs in the developed world, lagging behind 22 other countries. From the book IQ and Global Inequality. In math skills Americans also test out very poorly compared to numerous other countries according to the Program for International Student Assessment. “American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.” From a study and survey in the New York Times. (Hat tip to “Are Americans Stupid? Statistics, Studies, and Research.” ) Granted none of these track a trend, but I just wanted to show that there is ample evidence that Americans don’t seem to be on top of things when it comes to being smart and educated.

How did this happen and what does it mean? I have some ideas, and it means we’re screwed. I mean, the government is carrying on about Iran’s nuclear program and only one out ten Americans know what radiation is? One in five adults thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth? At least this makes it clearer how our leaders can promulgate the most egregious nonsense, and Americans take it in stride. And that will be the topic of the next blog, the egregious nonsense being touted by some of our leaders. As I am saying all too often these days, this isn’t going to end well.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. I got it from the fine web site. It’s titled Prank Fail … a bad idea about to get worse. No kidding. Like the guy in New York who wanted to pet a tiger so he jumped into a tiger cage. He got his wish apparently. The tigers got their wish too … a chance to maul a human being. And no insult to tigers is meant, apex predators in captivity know they are being held in captivity, and they know who is holding them captive. Lastly I have no idea of the actual origin of the photo above, what the hell were they trying to accomplish? Teaching lions to hunt?)

Written by unitedcats

October 8, 2012 at 6:48 am

Through Thick and Thin

with 6 comments

Well, my gun control posts got a lot of comments. Not surprising, it’s a topic that people tend to have strong opinions on. However it looks like long time commenter Steve finally got pushed over the edge and will be finding new blogs to comment on. I’m not sure why he hung around so long, he usually vehemently disagreed with just about everything I wrote. In his final comment he claimed I had a serious mental defect. I resent that. My mental defects are comical and preposterous, there’s nothing serious about them at all.  I’d say he’ll be missed, but I doubt it. I will however be writing more about gun control, in my researches I discovered that “fact lite” describes a tremendous amount of what is written on the topic by all parties in the debate. Even the serious (there’s that word again) research is often badly tainted by ideology. Lastly, the research by its very nature is statistical and thus easy to manipulate to get the desired results, consciously or unconsciously.

I guess the thing that gets me about the gun control “debate,” is that it’s like health care. Despite the fact that by every measure the USA has the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world, millions of Americans are convinced we have the best health care system in the world. And by the same token, despite a level of gun violence that dwarfs that of the rest of the developed world, millions of Americans are convinced there is no problem. When I was young wilful ignorance wasn’t considered a patriotic value, now it’s a point of pride. Jesus wept.

Speaking of consciously manipulated: Missouri Votes Kids Shouldn’t Have To Study Evolution, Climate Change, Or Anything Gay. This is wrong on so many levels. Education is for broadening the mind and exposing children to different perspectives so they can use the brains God gave them for what they were intended. Channelling a child’s education into “ideologically safe” areas is the ultimate admission that a philosophy can’t stand on its own merits. If Fundamentalists really believed that Evolution was false, shouldn’t they welcome it in the schools so that their children can discuss it, see its flaws, and point them out to others? Why are they afraid to expose their children to ideas they disagree with?

Atomic bombings. This week was the anniversary of them. I’ve written a  number of posts about them. I wasn’t up to it this year. They tend to be controversial. That’s being diplomatic. Another topic where many or most Americans have learned propaganda substituted for history and fact. The fact is that under the laws of the era, they were terrible war crimes. They played little or no role in the Japanese surrender. They served no military purpose. They were opposed by the US military, Eisenhower and MacArthur were against them. There was no need to invade Japan, they were already beaten. Potential American casualties of a million in the planned invasion of Japan were made up by the Truman administration to justify the bombings after the fact (ignoring the point that it’s a war crime to kill any civilians in order to protect your soldiers. They are noncombatants, that means soldiers aren’t allowed to shoot at them.) And Japan had already been trying to surrender, they would agree to anything as long as we agreed not to prosecute their emperor. A condition we granted them anyhow. This is one of the best examples of how patriotic hypocrisy works in a nation, where people justify terrible crimes committed by their government, while casting terrible aspersions on the crimes of other nations. Probably a good thing Steve left, he’d be having a heart attack and a stroke now.

Yeah, I use religious language and imagery frequently. I’m a free thinker. Isn’t that a contradiction? From some perspectives I suppose. It would be more accurate I suppose  if I used “hypothetical-Jesus wept” or “hypothetical-God bless.” I think God and Jesus are myths, but I still live my life in such a way that if I die and find myself at the gates of Heaven, I’ll be able to look them in the eye. Why would anyone do anything less? So I don’t have a problem with using them as a literary device, and as a way to speak to people who do believe in God. That would be a lot of people, including the majority of my friends and family. I imagine a Jesus (or Moses or Buddha or whoever) who would be appalled at some of the stuff done in their name. Any religious person who can’t find common ground in there somewhere is a fool or a liar.

There are a lot of fools and liars in the world. Science has in fact shown that people can lie to themselves. Try to think about that.

(The above image has been shamelessly copied from Facebook, whoever holds the copyright is waycool. I like it because of the sentiment, and I like it because it is an interesting photograph. I’m gonna be posting more  photographs soon, brace yourselves.)

Written by unitedcats

August 10, 2012 at 7:25 am