Dumbing Down

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Back to School - Bob Englehart
Back to School © Bob Englehart

Writing for The Seattle Times in 1996, Nancy Montgomery points out that:

Sue Fischer, president of the Association of Washington Educators of Talented and Gifted, says that during the past 15 years, the reading level of textbooks has dropped by two grade levels. That is, what used to be third-grade material is now fifth-grade material.… In other words, textbooks have been “dumbed down.” The result, according to a wide-ranging group including teachers, textbook salesmen, education researchers and government officials, is a more poorly educated student population.18

© Jeff Stahler

The Common Sense Show reports on dumbing down by highlighting the deficiencies in the Common Corevii curriculum discovered by The Pioneer Institute:

  • “Common Core fails to teach prime factorization and consequently does not include teaching about least common denominators or greatest common factors.
  • Common Core fails to include conversions among fractions, decimals, and percents, identified as a key skill by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
  • Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation, which is a prerequisite for advanced mathematics, and instead effectively redefines algebra as “functional algebra”, which does not prepare students for STEM careers.
  • Common Core does not require proficiency with addition and subtraction until grade 4, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
  • Common Core does not require proficiency with multiplication using the standard algorithm (step-by-step procedure for calculations) until grade 5, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
  • Common Core does not require proficiency with division using the standard algorithm until grade 6, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
  • Common Core starts teaching decimals only in grade 4, about two years behind the more rigorous state standards, and fails to use money as a natural introduction to this concept.
  • Common Core fails to teach in K-8 about key geometrical concepts such as the area of a triangle, sum of angles in a triangle, isosceles and equilateral triangles, or constructions with a straightedge and compass that good state standards include.” 19

“Average reading and writing SAT scores for high school students declined to their lowest levels while math results stalled in the exam used for admission at most U.S. colleges,” notes Janet Lorin for Bloomberg:

A record 1.66 million students from the class of 2012 took the exam.… The drop in scores reflect the fact that more lower-income studentsviii with less access to high-quality education are taking the test, the College Board said.20

“The SAT was taken last year [2013] by 1.6 million students,” writes KIRO TV:

It has historically been more popular on the coasts, while the other popular standardized college entrance exam, the ACT, dominated the central U.S. But the ACT overtook the SAT in overall use in 2012, in part because it is taken by almost every junior in 13 states as part of the states’ testing regimen. Last year, the ACT said it would begin offering computer-based testing in 2015.…

The new exam will be rolled out in 2016, so this year’s ninth graders will be the first to take it, in their junior year. The new SAT will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will be on a 1,600-point scale, with a separate score for the optional essay.

Students will have the option of taking the test on a computer.

One of the biggest changes is that the extra penalty for wrong answers, which discouraged guessing, will be eliminated. And some vocabulary words will be replaced with words such as “synthesis” and “empirical” that are used more widely in classrooms and in work settings.21

BBC News discusses unearned high achievement through grade inflation:ix

Ruth Lea, policy director at the [United Kingdom’s] Institute of Directors said: “This is farcical – we’ve now got endemic grade inflation which is making it harder and harder for employers to discriminate between able and less well able students, and the universities are having the same problem. We are deeply pessimistic about this dumbing down – A-levels are no longer the gold standard they were 20 years ago.” 22, x

“It would seem our society currently contains far too-many high school valedictorians,” writes Doug Barry for the Jezebel website:

The difficulty with naming so many students “valedictorian” is that, like the glut of lawyers and freshly-painted law schools, their supernumerary existence begins to dilute individual achievement, at least in the eyes of eyes of [sic] college admissions officers. The more valedictorians you have, the less special the achievement becomes, or, if you prefer to learn your lessons from Pixar, if everyone is super, then no one is.

That’s how elite colleges are starting to see the glut of valedictorians, with critics of multiple-valedictorian graduating classes citing grad [sic] inflation (rather than academic diligence) as the real reason so many kids can sail through high school with unblemished GPAs.23

In Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness, Jim Keith explains how this “has culminated in the all-too-familiar situation of…education today in which the majority of persons graduating from high school are functionally illiterate and ill-prepared for doing anything else than saying ‘yes’ to Big Brother and his telescreens.” 24, xi

In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler continues saying that “Nothing could be better calculated to produce people uncertain of their goals, people incapable of effective decision-making under conditions of overchoice.” 25

Keith notes that “From the standpoint of the social controllers there are many advantages to keeping the populace stupid, not the least being that the less intelligent a person is, the more susceptible he is to exterior control.26

“For the individual, limited education becomes a handicap in obtaining employment or in moving up the status ladder as jobs become more specialized, and technical-educational requirements increase,” write Charles W. McDougall and Eugene Welden in The Yearbook of Agriculture 1971: A Good Life for More People:

It might be a good idea to inscribe on every college diploma a warranty that reads, “This education is valid for 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.” Perhaps we then should offer each college graduate a “tuneup” in education every 2 years.

The dynamic world we live in requires that each adult American update his supply of knowledge frequently.27

Carl Sagan’s wife, Ann Druyan, points out in Cannabis Culture that her husband “knew that if we were to have even a little bit of democracy in this society, as many of us as possible should understand the workings, language, values and methods of science and technology so that we can’t be so easily manipulated.” 28, xii

A famous person once said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” But as I once said, “If you don’t teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like.” – Max Headroom

“You ought also to take note of the fact that one of America’s most distinguished literary magazines, Harper’s, has found it necessary to reduce substantially the length of its articles and stories in order to accommodate the reduced attention span of its readers,” write Neil Postman in Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology and Education:

There will be an erosion of the concept of the common reader, the type of person who gets most of his or her literary experience and information from novels and general non-fiction books. There will almost certainly be an increase in both illiteracy and aliteracy (an aliterate being a person who can read but doesn’t).… A general impatience with books will develop, especially with books in which language is used with subtlety to express complex ideas. Most likely there will be a decline in readers’ analytical and critical skills. According to the results of standardized tests given in schools, this has been happening in the United States for the past twenty-five years [as of 1988]. I suspect concern for history will also decline, to be replaced by a consuming interest in the present.29

Television advertising will draw advertisers away from newspapers and magazines. Some newspapers and magazines will go out of business; others will change their format and style to compete with television for audiences, and to match the style of thought promoted by television.30 Young people will, of course, become disaffected from school and reading.… Naturally, family life will be significantly changed. There will be less interaction among family members, certainly less talk between parents and children.31 You may find that in the end the line between adulthood and childhood has been erased entirely.32

“Today’s children are bombarded with an array of media glamorizing sex; along with an onslaught of sexual images and innuendos,” notes a documentary about the hypersexualization of children. “Instead of focusing on important qualities like self-acceptance, independance, and individuality,… powerful companies instead teach young girls about vanity, materialism, conformity, and sex appeal.” 33

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vii “Common Core Standards might just be the most despised education policy politicians have shoved down the throat of We The People since the creation of the U.S. Department of Education. But instead of getting rid of the common core atrocity, they have decided all that’s needed is to rename it.
– Karin Piper, “Parents Beware: State Leaders Want to Rename Common Core to Fool the Public,” 1 February 2014, at http://politichicks.tv/column/parents-beware-state-leaders-want-rename-common-core-fool-public/ (retrieved: 2 February 2014).

viii More than 1.1 million students in the United States in grades K–12 were homeless in the 2011–12 school year—a record high.… Experts say that the numbers may even be higher than what you’ll see here, because irregular class attendance and changing addresses mean homeless kids are difficult to track.* The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth says that two trends are responsible for these big numbers: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in severe poverty in the U.S.
– “The 10 Worst States of Student Homelessness,” takepart.com, at http://www.takepart.com/photos/poverty-in-the-us-homeless-students-by-state?cmpid=tp-ptnr-upworthy (retrieved: 8 December 2013).

* Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.
– Kathryn Joyce, “The Homeschool Apostates,” American Prospect, at http://prospect.org/article/homeschool-apostates (retrieved: 8 December 2013); See also Kathryn Joyce, “Escape from Christian Fundamentalism – the Kids Who Flee Abusive, Isolated Christian Homes,” AlterNet, 6 December 2013, at http://www.alternet.org/belief/escape-christian-fundamentalism-kids-who-flee-abusive-isolated-christian-homes (retrieved: April 2013).

ix In general, the highest academic grade inflation is in the lowest achieving schools.
– M. Donald Thomas, Ph.D. President Emeritus, School Management Study Group and William Bainbridge, Ph.D. President, SchoolMatch Corporation, Columbus, Ohio, “Grade Inflation: The Current Fraud,” at http://schoolmatch.com/articles/ESRJAN97.htm (retrieved: 5 June 2012).

x Friends TV show, Scene: N.Y.U. Paleontology department, Ross is putting up the grades on the message board.
Burt: (another professor) Wow! It looks like you were very generous with your grades this semester! (Ross frantically starts to change some as a female student, Elizabeth, approaches.)
– “The One Where Ross Dates a Student,” Friends, 9 March 2000, at http://www.fanfr.com/scripts/saison6/friendsgeneration2.php?nav=script&version=vo&episodescript=618 (retrieved: 26 August 2012).

Fat Freddy's Cat (animated GIF)

xi Between 21 and 23 percent of the adult population or approximately 44 million people, according to the [1992] National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS),…can read a little but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child.… Another 25-28 percent of the adult population, or between 45 and 50 million people,…can perform more complex tasks such as comparing, contrasting, or integrating pieces of information but usually not higher level reading and problem-solving skills.… Literacy experts believe that [these] adults…lack a sufficient foundation of basic skills to function successfully in our society.
– “Facts on Literacy In America,” Literacy Volunteers of America, at http://www.literacyvolunteers.org/about/faqs/facts.html (retrieved: 2008).

xii Part of the charm of Sagan’s Cosmos was its earnest confidence in both its host’s ability to explain and its audience’s willingness to understand.* The show assumed that people really did want to know why there were crabs that looked like samurai, or whether there might be more than three dimensions, and that the subject matter was compelling enough that it didn’t need any jazzing up.
– Tom Hawking, “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Is Just Different Enough From Carl Sagan’s to Work,” Flavorwire, 10 March 2014, at http://flavorwire.com/444371/neil-degrasse-tysons-cosmos-is-just-different-enough-from-carl-sagans-to-work (retrieved: 3 July 2014).

* “Electronic teach-in via television seems to be most effective if you do extensive promotion and encourage people to view at home,” [teach-in producer Karin Kristiansson] said.
– Gordon Webb, “Communication, Bridge to a Better World,” in The Yearbook of Agriculture 1971: A Good Life for More People (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1971), p. 221.

18 Nancy Montgomery, “Dumbed-down texts too easy, too simple, too boring, critics say,” The Seattle Times, 3 March 1996, p. A1, at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19960303&slug=2317134 (retrieved: 5 June 2012).

19 “How Your Child Is Being Dumbed Down,” Dave Hodges: The Common Sense Show, 2 August 2013, at http://thecommonsenseshow.com/2013/08/02/how-your-child-is-being-dumbed-down/ (retrieved: 3 August 2013); See also Pioneer Institute at Truth in American Education, at http://truthinamericaneducation.com/tag/pioneer-institute/ (retrieved: 3 August 2013).

20 Janet Lorin, “SAT Reading, Writing Test Scores Drop to Lowest Levels,” Bloomberg, 24 September 2012, at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-24/sat-reading-writing-test-scores-drop-to-lowest-levels.html (retrieved: 2 March 2013).

21 Kimberly Hefling (The Associated Press), “New SAT: The essay portion is to become optional,” KIRO TV, 5 March 2014, at http://www.kirotv.com/ap/ap/sat-college-entrance-exam-to-get-upgrade/nd526/ (retrieved: 11 March 2014).

22 “Results ‘a real achievement’,” BBC News, 17 Aug 2000, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/education/883484.stm (retrieved: 5 June 2012).

23 Doug Barry, “Why the Hell Are There So Many High School Valedictorians?” Jezebel, 2 June 2013, at http://jezebel.com/why-the-hell-are-there-so-many-high-school-valedictoria-510918760 (retrieved: 2 June 2013).

24 Jim Keith, Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness (Lilburn, GA: IllumiNet Press, 1999), p. 24.

25 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988, 1970), p. 417.

26 Keith, Mass Control, p. 24.

27 Charles W. McDougall and Eugene Welden, “School Bells Ring for Adults Through Life,” in The Yearbook of Agriculture 1971: A Good Life for More People (U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1971), pp. 174, 172

28 Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan’s wife), interview with Pete Brady, “Carl Sagan: Visionary Scientist; World-renowned teacher, author and scientist found that cannabis helped him to fully explore the cosmos,” Cannabis Culture #32, Aug/Sep 2001, p. 45.

29 Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology and Education (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 111.

30 Op. cit.

31 Ibid., p. 112.

32 Ibid., p. 113.

33 “Illuminati Hypersexualization of Children Exposed! Disney Pedophilia and Satanic Rolemodels,” codenameANOOR video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwUwchCeeI4 (retrieved: 7 February 2015). (Show video)

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