America, Idiocracy in the making?
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?)