The Dumbing Down of America

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                                                                         The Dumbing Down Of America

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." Thomas Jefferson

"The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today's very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces, a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.

Reading has declined not only among the poorly educated, according to a report last year by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book -- fiction or nonfiction -- over the course of a year. The proportion of 17-year-olds who read nothing (unless required to do so for school) more than doubled between 1984 and 2004. This time period, of course, encompasses the rise of personal computers, Web surfing and video games.

“America is in a rush to embrace the stupid” – how true that is! We really need to look no further than television and social media to see that hypothesis repeatedly confirmed as quickly as you can change the TV channel or refresh your mobile browser. We are marching, knuckles scraping the dirt, towards a world resembling “Idiocy”

The shrinking public attention span fostered by video and TV is closely tied to the second important anti-intellectual force in American culture: the erosion of general knowledge.

According to a 2006 survey by National Geographic-Roper, nearly half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 do not think it necessary to know the location of other countries in which important news is being made. This includes our military who are fighting and dying in Iraq.

That leads us to the third and final factor behind the new American dumbness: not lack of knowledge per se but arrogance about that lack of knowledge. The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it's the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place.

It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects , this ought to be the first item on the change agenda.

50:6.4 Culture presupposes quality of mind; culture cannot be enhanced unless mind is elevated. Superior intellect will seek a noble culture and find some way to attain such a goal. Inferior minds will spurn the highest culture even when presented to them ready-made. Much depends, also, upon the successive missions of the divine Sons and upon the extent to which enlightenment is received by the ages of their respective dispensations.

175:1.17 You are truly blind guides and dumb teachers; you strain out the gnat and swallow the camel.

Rickey H. Crosby ( Petitor Veritatis) (Vincit Omnia Veritas)