We need to stop dumbing down of America

By Jeff Linville - jlinville@civitasmedia.com

In the 2006 movie “Idiocracy,” Luke Wilson, an average Joe, is accidentally frozen for 500 years.

He wakes up to find that America has been dumbed down so severely that he is immediately the smartest man in the country.

There is famine because an energy drink manufacturer convinced everyone that electrolytes are so good for us that its product should be used for irrigation. The salt content in the drink killed all the crops.

While the movie was funny (if a bit ludicrous) 10 years ago, the past decade has seen such a shift that is seems more likely that our country could one day resemble that of “Idiocracy.”

The proliferation of reality TV shows, social media that has worsened grammar and writing skills among teens, the slim pickings amongst presidential candidates, etc.

And I’m certainly not the only one saying it.

On Tuesday, sportswriter Michael Wilbon published an article on ESPN about the lack of black people in the field of sports analytics. Wilbon, himself a black man, said that his race doesn’t seem to favor stats and advanced metrics that are taking over the sports world.

Five years ago, Brad Pitt starred in “Moneyball,” based on a 2003 book by Michael Lewis. The idea that inspired the book and movie is that those who have a deeper understanding of math, statistics and probability can out-manage teams that simply throw cash at top players.

Since that movie came out, more and more teams in both baseball and basketball have jumped on the “Moneyball” bandwagon.

And none of those jobs are going to black people because they aren’t getting educated in such a field, Wilbon stated. Black men are very emotional about sports and will debate favorites teams and players based off those emotions instead of stats and figures.

But it’s not just the black culture that shuns such advanced studies.

There has always been a cultural bias against those who seek to better themselves through education.

Such as in the movie “Back to the Future,” a McFly male was picked on in 1955, 1985 and 2015 by a slow-witted, but physically imposing guy.

For decades, there have been squares, nerds, dweebs, geeks, dorks and brainiacs who were ostracized simply for being smart. Which is odd because you would think that we would want to encourage good grades and cultivate a smarter generation.

In 2014, Ray Williams posted an article in Psychology Today on the “cult of ignorance” in the U.S.

This anti-intellectual trend, he writes, “it’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance and deliberate gullibility.”

Science fiction legend Isaac Asimov once noted that this anti-intellectualism is “nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Last week I wrote a column on a very serious topic called “What happened to Tough on Crime?” being critical of our court system on some recent cases.

I posted the story on our Facebook page and got a grand total of two comments.

Staff writer Tom Joyce wrote an article critical of football player Cam Newton last fall and had more than 130 comments posted. That’s a clear indicator of where most people’s priorities lie.

Jay Leno used to go out on the street and ask people simple questions that any school kid should know, and these adults would show their extreme ignorance.

“Oh sure, but the crew edited those responses down to just the dumb ones,” someone might think.

The show didn’t need to edit down. According to one Gallup poll, 18 percent of Americans surveyed believe that the sun revolves around the earth. And 42 percent of Americans believe that life began on this planet less than 10,000 years ago even though carbon-dating puts fossils found right here in the Yadkin Valley region at twice that age.

A 2008 study by the University of Texas found that a quarter of biology teachers in public schools believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs gave public school students a civics test, based on the citizenship exams given to immigrants wanting to become U.S. citizens. Only 2.8 percent passed, and 77 percent of students didn’t know that George Washington was the first president and Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.

According to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, more than 40 percent of Americans my age (44) and younger didn’t read a single book in the past year, either fiction or nonfiction.

“We’re creating a world of dummies,” wrote Williams. “Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.”

We need to change the culture in our country, starting from the earliest ages. It should be “cool” to learn and have knowledge, and the class bullies who want to pick on the bookworms need to be taught that this behavior is unacceptable.

Then maybe, just maybe, we can halt this trend before it gets any worse.


By Jeff Linville


Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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