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The Dumbing Down of America


Society & Culture  (tags: activists, americans, government, freedoms, environment, education, world, politics, religion )

Gene
- 1460 days ago - macleans.ca
Well, the title really says it all. But the article proves it.



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Comments

Gene J (290)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 12:31 pm
I think you'll find this interesting and more than a little disquieting. Alexis de Tocqueville had our number in his book, Democracy in America written in 1835 and 1840 - good synopsis in Wikipedia, when he said that those with the most education and intelligence were left with two choices. They could join limited intellectual circles to explore the weighty and complex problems facing society, or they could use their superior talents to amass vast fortunes in the private sector. Tocqueville wrote that he did not know of any country where there was "less independence of mind, and true freedom of discussion, than in America"

'In 1978, 42 per cent of Americans reported that they had read 11 or more books in the past year. In 2014, just 28 per cent can say the same, while 23 per cent proudly admit to not having read even one, up from eight per cent in 1978. Newspaper and magazine circulation continues to decline sharply, as does viewership for cable news. The three big network supper-hour shows drew a combined average audience of 22.6 million in 2013, down from 52 million in 1980. While 82 per cent of Americans now say they seek out news digitally, the quality of the information they’re getting is suspect. Among current affairs websites, Buzzfeed logs almost as many monthly hits as the Washington Post."
 

David B (29)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 12:44 pm
Are all Americans stupid, or just most of them?
 

Gene J (290)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 1:09 pm
It is sometimes hard to tell, isn't it, David.
 

Chris C (152)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 1:12 pm
I find myself just shaking my head in disbelief more and more!
 

JL A (281)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 1:27 pm
NCLB was designed to focus on spewing facts rather than development of analytical skills (often primarily in science courses); thus the stage was set towards further erosion of education.
 

Yvonne White (229)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 2:35 pm
I think the article is superficially correct..with lots of assumptions & unproven "facts". Blaming Baby Boomers is easy, and too many of us do SEEM to be obsessed with Pop Culture - but I do not believe that to be in the absense of Everything Else. I knew the references used, but NOT the life story of the Kardashians (for example).. IF Americans think little of science, is it because they don't Have to? Or because their Politicians de-funded NASA, or the News Media made a bigger deal of $200 hammers instead of How we were able to go to the moon? etc., etc.
I believe Parents NEED to make sure their children Learn, and help them learn HOW to learn even in the absense of Good Teachers or aged Text Books!
It seems to me that if Grandmothers can learn new technology to stay abreast of things, then Americans are NOT as stupid as they Might seem. Of course there are subsets (TeaBaggers & their wanna-be Politicos) who wallow in ignorance & would love to drag us all down. But America is big enough for us overly elite know-it-alls! ;)
 

Ron B (213)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 2:44 pm
Interesting article indeed. Thanks, Gene. It would appear that the corporate and political agenda of keeping the masses as ignorant and fearful as possible is unfolding right on schedule as planned.
 

Joanne Dixon (38)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 2:52 pm
It doesn't need to be a huge percentage of anti-intellectuals to sink the country, provided they are the ones who vote and the rest of us don't. That is what has been happening. I might add you don't have to be intellectual to be effective on the internet. You need to be LOUD. Anti-intellectuals are good at that.
 

Past Member (0)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 3:00 pm
Boy how sad...it seems Canada is sadly following in the same path. No wonder we're in big trouble. thanks Gene
 

David F (14)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 3:55 pm
not that there's so much more left to dumb down in da United $tate$ of Amnesia ...
 

Sheryl G (363)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 4:19 pm
The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

Yes.....

This is what we get when we allow it to happen by voting in people by their religion and not their ability to run a Country with a diverse population. This is what happens when the protections for the people are removed by those elected by the Plutocrats for their selfish interests only, this is what fascism looks like when there are more and more uninformed, ill informed, misinformed who will walk lockstep with these crazy and most certainly dangerous ideas.

And this is what happens when you have an apathetic citizenry for far too long and chooses to remain that way. Day after day some excellent news articles are placed onto C2 and yet they will hardly gain the numbers on average that other articles gain. So I guess the public is satisfied to remain in this discord rather than spend a bit of time learning something that might in the beginning be a bit of a challenge but it will be far easier than all the challenges they will face in the future if this continues on. Things do not get better on their own, you have to work at it.
 

David B (29)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 4:42 pm
"Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?" - yes
 

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 4:57 pm
Knowledge is power and those in control would rather we don't have any knowledge....and therefore, no power either. So much better for them if we are all busy watching "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo".
 

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 6:16 pm
I have been known to comment on quite a few articles with the words - has America gone mad? A very interesting read, Gene, and sadly (for America) more than a little true. I believe the American education system must be addressed at some point. And voting also, non-compulsory voting just doesn't work. I could go on about this article at length, however time is of the essence right now; suffice it to say the Kardashians and Jenny McCarthy are fools, and people need to wake up to the fact that worshipping "celebrities" and taking their word as gospel truth is definitely moronic. Thanks Gene.
 

SusanAWAY Allen (219)
Wednesday May 21, 2014, 8:12 pm
Noted and shared. Wow, where to begin? First, great article Gene. Thanks for sharing it. At first I thought it was just another article about the child in SC who wanted to name the Columbian mammoth as the state's official fossil as it did not have one. I had read that article some time back and almost stopped reading. I'm glad I didn't.

In my mind, one of the most telling paragraphs was: "Although according to a 2012 paper by Gordon Gauchat, a University of North Carolina sociologist, the erosion of trust in science over the past 40 years has been almost exclusively confined to two groups: conservatives and regular churchgoers. Counterintuitively, it is the most highly educated among them—with post-secondary education—who harbour the strongest doubts."

It is the first sentence that really hits home. Of late, in the US, it is the evangelical religious crazies who seem to be running things and because it's religion, even if someone doesn't go to church, doesn't identify with any particular faith and may have the barest belief in god, they do not dare take issue with anything that might look like they're coming down on the wrong side of religion.

Religious nuts began their takeover of American politics in 1980 when the worst president in US history, Ronald Reagan, was elected. He immediately climbed into bed with Jerry Falwell and his "Moral Majority" movement. It's been absolutely downhill for America ever since. The used one lone issue to control the faithful masses and that was abortion.

Education started to suffer because, as Arielle said, knowledge is power and they really don't want an educated public; certainly not educated in reality. The wealthy and even not-so-wealthy had already started moving their children from public schools into private ones when integration became the law of the land. Private schools sprang up all over the place and churches of all denominations started schools. There had always been Catholic schools, but not all these others really. At least Catholic schools used to offer a quality education and probably still do today as far as I know. After all, the Catholics got over their denial of science after the Inquisition.

This is also about the time that the push started for school vouchers, which, of course, does nothing but allow more and more desertion from public schools. Because public schools do nothing but prepare children to take tests now because that's the only way they get funding and the only way many teachers get a raise, true education is taking a backseat to these tests. Of course, again, this is pure bullshit as it never takes into consideration the socio-economic background of students, as well as so many other factors. Those in power continually bash and attack teachers at every turn and blame them for the dismal state of our public educational system.

Another interesting paragraph reads: "There’s a long and not-so-proud history of American electors lashing out irrationally, or voting against their own interests. Political scientists have been tracking, since the early 1950s, just how poorly those who cast ballots seem to comprehend the policies of the parties and people they are endorsing. A wealth of research now suggests that at the most optimistic, only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices."

I just cringed when I read that. Now that Americans have been "dumbed down" and we have a country run by ultra rich conservatives who own every major news outlet, most Americans only get the news these corporate moguls want them to get. This, to me, is one of the biggest problems we have in America today and that is the ability for people to get on air and lie, lie, lie and no one does anything at all to stop it. There is no law that says this is wrong and so it continues. I guess this is really what would be called propaganda.

Personally, I don't particularly care for any mainstream media source, as they all tell lies, either directly or indirectly by omission, which is just as bad. I do listen to or watch most mainstream media to some degree (except Fox of course), but I take most of what they say with a grain of salt. I do turn to the internet and to organizations that I trust and that I am in agreement with to find and/or verify news on any particular subject.

I dare say that most Americans do not do that. Most don't have the time or don't take the time. Most are working themselves to death to support themselves and their family. We are tired here. We are apathetic here. Most believe all is lies and don't believe their vote counts anyway, so why bother to listen or vote. And, if they do go vote, as the author noted, a large number vote against their own best interests.

I don't know what the answer is by any means, but I do believe that the media MUST become independent and religion MUST take a backseat to government, as was intended by our Constitution and as it was, for the most part, prior to 1980. Of course, there's a snowball's chance in hell that either of those two things will happen. I am happy that I am nearer the end of my life than just beginning it and I'm definitely glad I will leave no children or grandchildren behind when I die. I do fear for this once great country. The rest of the world is bound to wake up before long and put us in our place; and that may be our only saving grace. Of course with the take-over world corptocracy poised to step in if and when the TPP and the TPIP are entered into by most countries who fancy themselves in charge of the world, I'm afraid all will be lost anyway for the entire planet.

Just my 2 cents ~
 

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 12:53 am
Well-said, Susan Allen :) thanks for the green star, right back at you. Something has to give. I would not like to see America go down the gurgler ( or to hell in a handbasket is probably what you Americans would say)
 

Gloria p (304)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 2:09 am
I never read Tocqueville but I read American Vertigo by Bernard Henri Levy. BHL took the same journey through the US as Tocqueville did. I went to the lecture on the book given by the author. He dislikes it we cry facist but what can you do about ignorance and bigotry?
 

Gloria p (304)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 2:10 am
Care2 please get an edit feature!

I never read Tocqueville but I read American Vertigo by Bernard Henri Levy. BHL took the same journey through the US as Tocqueville did. I went to the lecture on the book given by the author. He dislikes it when we cry facist but what can you do about ignorance and bigotry?
 

Judy T (227)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 4:52 am
It's so sad, but true! Oh, and Susan ... great comment, my friend! Thanks, it's a pretty good article, Gene!
 

Gene J (290)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 5:08 am
Thanks to all who noted and commented. As I thought about this more last night I was thinking that part of the problem is that Americans aren't involved enough in the electoral process. This is from a chart I'll link to:
2012 240,926,957 NA 130,234,600 53.6%
2010 235,809,266 NA 90,682,968 37.8%
2008 231,229,580 NA 132,618,580* 56.8
2006 220,600,000 135,889,600 80,588,000 37.1
National Voting %'s

That goes back as far as 1960 - you can see the percentage drop in off Presidential year elections very dramatically beginning in the 1970's, but even so, compared to other free countries, our voting percentage is disgraceful. I think that partially because Americans are lazy when it comes to our freedom. We are NOT the activists we were in the latter years of the 1800's or the first half of the 1900's. We're lazy and have come to take for granted that which we cherish most, our freedom. We do not exercise the responsibilities of free citizens. It is much easier to let others do our thinking and talking for us, even others who lived 2000 years ago and whose words were not written down until a century and much longer. And then misquoted and abused for the power of a few and the subjugation of the many.

It takes effort to be a free citizen. It requires thought and discussion and making up one's own mind on issues and then taking those convictions to the ballot box where we elect representatives who share our beliefs. We don't do very well at that at all. I've heard it said many times that if you didn't vote for anyone, no one can hold you to account for what "they" do. I think that's wrong. I think failing to exercise the franchise is the mark of a "bad" citizen and not voting an insult to those who founded this country and wrote our constitution. As well as an abdication of our personal responsibility to participate. You get what you vote for, and if you don't vote, you get what you deserve. I think we, as citizens, need pay closer attention to what is going on in the world and be a part of change in America, not just passively sit by and observe it, then kvetch at the coffeehouse or on Facebook or even here. I suspect we have a significantly higher percentage of voters here than many places do. But even that isn't enough. We, the people, need take back our union and see it reflect the love, optimism and responsibility we feel for our country and our world. That's a beginning to re-educating America. I think we have to renew our commitment to public education. I think post high school education should be free through a bachelor's or trade degree. I think that a fine investment in our future, not an expense we should avoid, but embrace. Thanks again to all of you for what you do.
 

Erika M (0)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 7:03 am
I can't help but wonder if people's faith in science is due to the fact that "science" can sometimes tend to change it's mind a lot. I see this mainly with pharmaceutical drugs. That is because it is the pharm. companies who do the testing and only give the FDA the data that shows the drug in a good light. The FDA doesn't have the time or manpower to really check so the dug gets approved and people die. I am proud to say that I have already read way more than 11 books this year, not all fiction. I generally prefer to read books I can learn something from. As for politics and voting, I think a lot of people believe that the whole process is basically rigged by the illuminati or elite. I tend to lean that way myself. Anyway, thank you Gene for posting such a good article.
 

Mitchell D (87)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 8:05 am
Some very good comments,!
I was having trouble commenting, here, a few minutes ago, but that seems to have been resolved.
Susan Allen, my first thought about all this went directly to St. Ronald, and his imbecilic ways. He had stated, in a major speech, that it was time to bring America back to its spirituality, then, indeed, got into bed with Falwell. He had a Secretary of the interior who did not believe in evolution, but, I guess, neither did he, just astrology.
I used to be amazed that C2 had an astrology section!
If you want to read a good book about this issue, read "Idiot America, How Stupidity...." I forget the author's name, might be Gingerich (not New, different spelling)
 

Jim Phillips (3257)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 11:38 am
Excellent comments above.

I'm going to throw in a nickels worth of a few comments and links. Yes, I read about the schoolgirl in South Carolina and what she endured. As for the question, "Has America lost its mind"... A simple yes is sufficient. Unfortunately, Fox News is the largest news outlet in USA and is, largely, responsible for the dumbing down its "watchers".

Bill Maher, new rules 16.05.2014. Fox News, otherwise, also known as the alternative history journal...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeoDda8az5M

CONFIRMED: New Study Proves That Fox News Makes You Stupid
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/12/13/928455/-CONFIRMED-New-Study-Proves-That-Fox-News-Makes-You-Stupid

14 Propaganda Techniques Fox 'News' Uses to Brainwash Americans
The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you.
http://www.alternet.org/story/151497/14_propaganda_techniques_fox_%27news%27_uses_to_brainwash_americans?akid=7226.100370.ATvj-p&rd=1&t=5

The most honest 3 minutes of television, EVER...
Bill Pullman gives a blistering speech!
While this may be a TV show, the facts are real.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73_ds1xQmD4&feature=player_embedded

ty, gene.
.
 

Gene J (290)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 12:32 pm
I gotta say, Jim, those were outstanding. Love Bill Maher. The only thing you got wrong is that isn't Bill Pullman, it is Jeff Daniels and that speech is so freaking good, I'm making it a clickable link here, in hopes that people will listen to it. We do lead the world in only three categories and he's right, none of them are worth a damn. Those we trail in? Well, there's the rub. We think we're so all that and he proves with numbers that can be researched and found true that we are far from being the greatest nation on earth. He's also right in that we once were. Thanks for the post, Jim, a great contribution to this idea and thread.
Why we are NOT the greatest country in the world - any longer
 

Jim Phillips (3257)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 2:17 pm
i stand corrected. It is Jeff Daniels and not Bill Pullman. I still get them mixed up. lol.

Glad you liked the "rant" on why America is not the greatest country anymore. Thanks
for making the video link into a hot one.
.

 

Helen Porter (39)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 10:09 pm
The news itself proves that America is no longer sane.

They take the shootings and the stabbings and put them on display in the newsrooms. This can cause those teetering on the edge to go over the edge and get their own drama Many folks who suffer from mental illness want attention ATTENTION DRAMA!

Stop advertising mass murder!!!

DUH
 

Deb E (63)
Thursday May 22, 2014, 10:52 pm
Of course America has gone crazy. But I want to say that I do not agree that the Boomers are to blame for any of this. We weren't the "me" generation. We were the generation that began the questioning of the political circus as maybe not being quite honest enough with the people, we were the generation who began trying to protect the Earth, we were the generation who began to question blindly following religions that just didn't make sense and we were one of the best educated generations to have come along ever in this country. And they saw it. And they decided that they could NOT afford to allow for the people to start questioning and thinking for themselves and they began to take away from the educating process almost immediately after 1970.

And I, for one, have never stopped being an informed and active citizen for democracy and freedom. Not one election have I ever forgotten to vote. And I have always been an activist, since the age of 17 when, at my first job, I saw how pay of the cute receptionist, who did nearly nothing, outpaced the pay of the factory workers who actually were the ones who kept the place in business, and I tried to start a strike. I march in rallies, and will be marching again this Saturday in the Millions Against Monsanto March that is happening again worldwide. I marched in the first one, as well, and was disgusted when none of the major news media even made mention of it. Last weekend, I spent my time outside of stores gathering signatures for a labeling bill in Oregon so we can try to get GMOs labeled in our State, because it is a cinch that our President isn't going to uphold his promise to do so. I am not tooting my horn ... I am merely trying to say that not all of us have quit. And not all of us have dropped the ball.

It is the new generations that are in colleges across this country today that MUST pick up this torch and keep it lit, or this country will fall. I used to think that man could not possibly destroy this Earth before she would destroy him. I am now thinking I was wrong. Humans are a destructive force that, if kept in the dark and fed BS long enough, can be used as massive weapons against their own kind. And that is exactly what the evil, greedy bunch at the top want.

Children are taught nothing about how their government works and haven't been since just after my children went to school. Of course they want the masses stupid. Give them games and computers so they don't have to think. Don't teach them to think. That is how they control the masses. Keep them stupid.

Good article for a discussion and lots of good comments.
 

Jonathan Harper (0)
Friday May 23, 2014, 1:30 am
noted
 

Elle B (84)
Friday May 23, 2014, 8:27 am
“It isn't that they can't see the solution. It's that they can't see the problem.” ―G. K. Chesterton

"There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity." ― Robertson Davies

“Can`t you see that I`m only advising you to beg yourself not to be so dumb?” ―Titus Petronius Niger, 27-66 A.D.


 

Catrin S (50)
Saturday May 24, 2014, 1:40 am
America is off the rocker and there is not a whole lot left to dumb down .
 

pam w (139)
Saturday May 24, 2014, 8:25 am
Oligarchy and theocracy FEED on an ignorant population! You can't be a brilliant creationist and you can't become an oligarch unless you have a ''peasant'' population willing to support you. It's happened before and it will happen again. Look at history around the world.
 

Mary F (21)
Saturday May 24, 2014, 3:40 pm
So, I take it no one is REALLY interested in viewing Ebenezer, the /\llosaurus, at the Creationist Museum?? Oh, darn! I so wanted to visit!! Thanks Gene!
 

pam w (139)
Sunday May 25, 2014, 9:29 am
OH....I'll go with you, Mary! We'll snicker, snort and guffaw.....while wearing pancake hats, gloves and sensible shoes!
 

Scott haakon (4)
Sunday May 25, 2014, 2:09 pm
The article was so out of touch. Many of the comparisons were down right foolish. Math scores. Well let's see how many changes happened in US education during that period. Remember the Hexadecimal system? Comparing number of books read from 1978-2014 is a joke. The author failed to notice the technological changes that most people use. Information by internet. Fast to the point information. Computers have hurt magazine sales too. Yes sound bite have taken over long reading newspapers (who themselves are dying out) a new fast mode of communication is needed. Leisure time? American have some of the Western world longest work weeks and least vacation. And oh yes income anxiety. The lack of a safety net and other back stops create a harried day and night.
 

Karen S (0)
Sunday May 25, 2014, 7:39 pm
Thanks
 

Wayne W (12)
Sunday May 25, 2014, 10:31 pm
"only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices."

I keep coming back to the confused soul who, at an early Tea Party event. held up a sign from his wheel chair: "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare". Very strong opinions on public policy without any knowledge whatsoever of the facts.. No doubt he voted for the party that wants to send Medicare to the states to die and to turn over to Wall Street the money that working people paid into SS.

We are a point now where Pat Robertson, who believes homosexuality causes tornados, is the voice of reason:

Pat Robertson to Ken Ham: 'Let's Be Real, Let's Not Make a Joke of Ourselves'
http://www.christianpost.com/news/pat-robertson-to-ken-ham-lets-be-real-lets-not-make-a-joke-of-ourselves-114063/

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes [In Florida. Who knew?], and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you.” He went on to warn that gays would ”bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.” -Pat Robertson



http://www.physics.mcgill.ca/~arobic/funny/gays.html
 

Nancy C (806)
Tuesday June 3, 2014, 5:39 pm
I'm very late to this discussion Gene, but I just can't let this one go without a few words. Speaking of the education in the US I couldn't help but think of my own. I had a 5 decade dance career with an ever extended study throughout. Along with classes from masters and professionals, I worked with some of the best in my field. I came back to my hometown to care for my dad (1997) and taught in a couple of studios. The aura had become competitive (not so much with oneself as with other groups) and quantity driven. I was now away from the pros and amongst a very different mentality. I became the enemy (with older students) as I taught a strive for perfection and sharing motion from masters. How different is that from the education and the politics of today?
My frustrations with teaching feel very much the same as my (our) struggles to share reality and science based fact. How many experts in the medical, scientific and energy fields have been squashed by big money??? Keep supporting grass roots truth and changing every mind to the scope of lies that are fed us daily...
 

Past Member (0)
Sunday March 15, 2015, 11:42 pm
One need look no further than all the people who believe in astrology or KARMA or homeopathy to see that the anti-science tide in the US is at an all time high.
 
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