Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

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

7 Responses

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  1. I don’t think I can say much. It is too ‘Fifth Dimension’. I feel like I have entered that realm. Maybe the US has always been this dumb and a few are just now waking up to see it.

    Lee Whittaker

    October 8, 2012 at 7:18 am

  2. The failings of Americans: 1. Amorality: win at all cost; lie and cheat habitually; lack of empathy.
    2. Insularity: unable to observe and learn from overseas examples; xenophobia and ethnocentrism.
    3. Resistance to progress and change: super conservatism; obsession with unalterable 200 year old
    constitution; illusion of exceptionalism. (observations of 49 year European immigrant)

    D.L.Contostavlos

    October 8, 2012 at 8:04 am

  3. I’m 29 years old and I have to say people my age do seem pretty stupid sometimes, most of them aren’t they are just ignorant and apathetic. Whats the point of knowing how your tv works if you can just go buy a better one if/when it breaks? No hunger for knowledge in the majority of people….totally agree with the previous commenter Contostavlos….Not very many people are open to new ideas/concepts, its like the imagination of folks is dying or a least being repressed somehow…

    Pyrodin

    October 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    • We’re not nourishing our curiosity, so it’s atrophied. Media and Hollywood helps in that, providing instant gratification of a graphic, violent and/or stupid nature at our fingertips and on the boob tube. Ultimately though, I feel we have ourselves to blame. Only we individually can make a commitment to learning — no one else can force us, not in the long-term. But it’s super-easy to be distracted these days, even if we possess the best intentions. Plus, there’s so much to learn, competing with what daily life necessitates we keep up with. Navigating modern life is a PITA, if you ask me.

      But I can relate with the attitude about people in our age range, Pyrodin, as someone roughly about your age. Young people today are absorbed in a whole other reality, a separate culture really. I often feel as if I’m on a cusp created in the early ’80s where we have a foot in both the 20th and 21st centuries.

      Over-population remains a top concern for me, and the movie “Idiocracy” hits an accurate chord in pointing out the most careless and oftentimes least intelligent among us are the ones breeding like rabbits. Of course, so are religious folks, and not all are numbskulls thankfully. But the most educated among us do tend to have the fewest children, partly due to demands in their chosen careers. So, apparently high ambition = less time and energy to devote toward child-rearing. So then our goal should be for a greater number of us to aim toward living satisfying, productive, and fulfilling lives so as to lessen the tendency to breed mindlessly? When people care, we’re less likely to behave carelessly and recklessly? I can see how this topic bleeds over into discussions on and inquires into quality of life.

      But then we have a government that financially subsidizes the care and upkeep of those who lack ambition, are proving unproductive, or otherwise find themselves dependent on aid supplied by others. Not that I’m against such a setup for those truly in need, but we all know the government has let things get out of control. Single mothers get their college education paid for, receive housing assistance and food stamps, and their children continue receiving Medicaid coverage. That’s not even taking into consideration child support payments and possibly alimony. People who abuse drugs regularly for years wind up prematurely disabled and require government-issued disability assistance. And there’s plenty of suffering in the world that it only seems right to help citizens in need; likewise, suffering in life leads people toward drugs and impulsive choices, particularly when they can serve as an emotional balm of sorts. Plenty of people are hurting today, hurting inside because our potential isn’t being realized, brought on by a combination of our own failings (carelessly or otherwise) and the over-arching culture’s all-to-often negative influence. We are repressed, but we are also partly responsible for allowing the repression to occur, seeing as how so few of us resist, having never learned to think for ourselves in a thoughtful and analytical manner.

      Life is tough, especially with so little quality guidance. I look forward to the internet proving valuable in turning that tide, but it’s all a matter of how we choose to use the technology at our disposal.

      wakemenow

      October 8, 2012 at 11:42 pm

  4. I think looking for one reason for the decline of civilization is pointless. As technology makes the world easier, it also makes humans lazy and what happens when you are truly lazy? One becomes unhappy. Without purpose but still having that inner drive to do something, society becomes unhappy, thus looking for ways to make it happy, artifical happiness is created. The need for things that will make us happy but don’t.
    It would be too easy to blame stupidity on anything but choice. We make choices every day that leads us down roads that we may or may not have followed before but unhappiness makes us want to be happy. Few of us are truly happy. I know this because I create happiness groups to teach people the importance of being happy and all walks of lives step forth to say they are unhappy.
    For those who seem to think that being poor, that using a system to make life better is the reason for stupid people are looking at the deep problem, why are so many of us looking for the easy way out? Why are we looking for others to make our choices for us? Without poor there would be no rich. If everyone wanted to be at the top what happens to the bottom. There are people in our society that are not using the system, aren’t even in the system and they see death of their children, the replacement of family members, starvation and begging as a way of life.
    Working with children who don’t fit in the world but have very high intelligence, it becomes very clear that we no longer celebrate the unique, the unusal and the outstanding. School is about producing mass numbers of average students, students who follow the rules and don’t think of ways of making the world a better place. Most students buy into the material world of want rather than need.
    We can only change ourselves and help others make the choice to change themselves, one person at a time.
    I think that the world is heading for a interesting time.

    I have to agree that some urban art has change but others are just as intriquing.
    Check these ones out: http://www.life123.com/arts-culture/art-history/graffiti/famous-graffiti-artists.shtml

    To address the reasoning behind people believing that the sun revolves around the earth “an estimated 1.3 million American high school students drop out every year; a disproportionate number of whom are youth of color.” (http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/school-dropout-prevention.aspx). If all you remember from elementry is that there was once an arguement about who was at the center of the universe and how to get your next meal it is understandable why we believe we are that the center of it all.

    If you want to know more about how to change a child’s life so that s/he has more choices check out this site: http://www.childrensdefense.org/about-us/
    The reality of a child’s life especially a child in poverty is a chilling prospect.

    How do we keep yourself informed, by connections. Not just the internet because liars post on there as well but with our elders, with family, with friends, with professionals even ones that preach wrong. We teach our children to be flexible thinkers, on at a time if need be. I have so far produce two flexible thinkers and I educate more every day. Every day I talk to a child, I try to encourage them to think flexiable, to believe that the impossible is possible, can’t isn’t a word and all those other clinches we hear over and over. To believe in the best and make it real is the only way to have a happy world.

    Happiness to you all!

    Liz

    October 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm

  5. The “Dumbing Down of America” theme is very well explored in many media, and no doubt the practice will continue for as long as there IS an America, and there are those who can read, watch, listen, and/or write a simple declarative sentence. (That’s a pun, BTW.) My favorite commentary on the topic was penned by Isaac Asimov; I think it was a little before the midpoint of last century.
    This was a short story, which I’m sure many of you have read, entitled, “The March of the Morons.” or perhaps it was “The Marching Morons.” I won’t go into plot detail here, but will mention a slogan that Doctor Ike penned in the story, which I’ve remembered and used since those days of good satire in the form of science fiction. The slogan was akin to the more prosaic, “Cool! Whaddya think about that?” accompanied by a poke in the ribs and a chuckle of derision. It was, (in one of its forms),
    “Hey! Would ya buy that for a quarter?”
    I wish I knew why the phrase has such staying power in memory – a good guess is that either I’m mentioned in the title of the story, or that was just part of the subtle genius of Dr. Asimov.

    subrider618

    October 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm

  6. The graffiti argument used in the text above is right on the mark. My favorite example was etched inside a toilet stall door at the Student Union, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The year was 1973, the day was Presidential Inauguration Day, (McGovern having gone down in flames of Napalm).

    We reelected a trickster named Dick
    Whose campaign was uncommonly slick.
    Still we have Watergate,
    But I fear it’s too late,
    ‘Cause it looks like that slick Dick will stick.

    subrider618

    October 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm


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