Dumbing Down

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Think outside: no box required

Heidi Stevenson writing for the NaturalNews.com website notes that it is more the loss of creative thinking than educational level that is the primary concern:

Hardly any of the greats of American history went through much formal schooling. That includes Thomas Jefferson. George Washington. Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Edison. Herbert Melville. Mark Twain. Margaret Mead. Admiral Farragut. And so many more.

Obviously, formal secondary schooling, at least of the type we now have, is not a requisite for learning, creativity, or greatness.40

“The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff,” writes Anya Kamenetz for NPR. But “parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars – preferences that can outweigh academics.” Here’s what a Education Research Alliance for New Orleans study found:

  • Parents care about academics, but not as much as they say they do.…
  • Distance matters. A lot.…
  • Extended hours matter.…
  • Extracurriculars matter.…
  • Poorer families care more about other factors – and less about academics.…

This last point is crucial because it suggests that a choice-based system all by itself won’t necessarily increase equity. The most economically disadvantaged students may have parents who are making decisions differently from other families. These parents appear to be more interested in factors other than academic quality as the state defines it. Maybe they have access to different, or less, information. If this is true, choice could actually increase, rather than diminish, achievement gaps within a city.41

Traditional education supplemented with tradecraft has demonstrated tremendous economic benefits. “Apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation,” explains the United States Department of Labor.42

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. - Frederick Douglass

“Germany’s apprenticeship programme is renowned throughout Europe and is said to be one reason why Germany has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the EU,” notes The Local. “The programme enables students to step into the job market after their ninth year of traditional schooling and add a more practical element to their education.… About 350 different types of apprenticeship positions are available in various job sectors.” 43

“It’s time parents – and for that matter the entire society – understood the true meaning of education,” writes Dong Fangyu for China Daily. “Fortunately, changing concepts in these times of social transition is prompting some young parents to explore new ways of raising children by paying greater attention to their personality and character building.” 44

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
– Frederick Douglass

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”
– Noam Chomsky

Right to Extreme Stupidity League

In a 1980 Newsweek column, Isaac Asimov noted that:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

An inverse relationship also exists between how much one knows versus how much one thinks they know. That is, the smartest people realize just how much more there is to learn, while the dumbest think they know everything. “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias manifesting in unskilled individuals suffering from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate,” writes Wikipedia:

This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, people with true ability tend to underestimate their relative competence based on the erroneous or exaggerated claims made by unskilled people.

David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.…

Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999, Dunning and Kruger have noted similar historical observations from philosophers and scientists, including Confucius (“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”), Socrates (“I know that I know nothing”), Bertrand Russell (“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”), and Charles Darwin, whom they quoted in their original paper (“ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”).

Geraint Fuller, commenting on the paper, noted that Shakespeare expressed similar sentiment in As You Like It (“The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole.” (V.i)).45

Chores for children

Even infants have been affected by the dumbing down of society. Babycenter describes how infant potty training has become lost among American conveniences:

While the notion of potty training a very young infant seems radical to many American parents, it’s not a new idea. Before 1950, most children in the United States were toilet trained by 18 months. And today, most African, Asian, and European babies are trained well before their second birthday.

So why are American babies and their parents so attached to their diapers? Many think it’s due in part to the changing views of experts about toilet training, as well as the invention of disposable diapers.

In the 1950s, pediatrician Benjamin Spock and other experts began advocating a more relaxed approach to toilet training. Then, in the 1960s, pediatrician and parenting expert T. Berry Brazelton advocated an even gentler, more “child-centered” philosophy: He encouraged parents to allow children to follow their own timetable when it came to giving up diapers.

Brazelton’s view caught on around the same time as disposable diapers, which tend to be more comfortable for babies (they’re so absorbent that babies don’t feel wet) and easier for parents to deal with. Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise that the average age of toilet training crept up.46

Even something as natural as breast feeding has become controversial if not taboo in America, ranging from bans placed on social media content, to parents preferring to feed their infants man-made chemicals instead of immune boosting breast milk, to mothers who breastfeed children until they are several years old, to breast milk black markets. Farah L. Miller notes for The Huffington Post:

In the provocative…May 21 [2012] issue, TIME Magazine taps into a two-decade-long parenting conversation that has boiled over in recent months. Journalist Kate Pickert reports on the rise of attachment parenting, a set of techniques popularized by Dr. William (Bill) Sears in “The Baby Book,” his 767-page treatise published in 1992.

In the article, Pickert explores who Sears is and why controversy surrounds his theories – the biggies are baby-wearing, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping – but it’s TIME’s photographs of real mothers breastfeeding their toddlers that has everyone talking.… TIME’s story is elevating the conversation to a national debate.

The usual questions that come up when mothers are called out for breastfeeding in public (which happens often) include: Is breastfeeding indecent? Or natural? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all mothers breastfeed for a full year – or longer if the mother so chooses, so how can we shame women who are just following the advice of the country’s foremost medical establishment?

There is no doubt that the TIME cover strikes the public as shocking. But, as Pickert points out, the women featured are at one extreme end of this always-controversial discussion. On the other end, she says, are mothers who “endorse the idea of maternal closeness (who doesn’t?) but think [Dr. William “Bill”] Sears is out of his mind.” 47

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40 Heidi Stevenson, “So-Called Education Intentionally Dumbs Down Americans,” NaturalNews.com, 11 May 2008, at http://www.naturalnews.com/023215.html (Retrieved: 5 June 2012).

41 Anya Kamenetz, “A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools,” nprED, 15 January 2015, at http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/01/15/376966406/a-new-study-reveals-much-about-how-parents-really-choose-schools (retrieved: 4 March 2015).

42 United States Department of Labor – Apprenticeship Training, at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/training/apprenticeship.htm (retrieved: 5 December 2013).

43 “Swedes snub German apprentice scheme,” The Local: Germany’s news in English, 21 October 2013, at http://www.thelocal.de/20131127/52495 (retrieved: 5 December 2013).

44 Dong Fangyu, “What’s the true meaning of education,” China Daily, 23-25 August 2013, 33(10169), p. 16.

45 Dunning–Kruger effect, Wikipedia.org, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect (retrieved: 24 September 2014).

46 “Infant potty training: What it is and how to do it,” babycenter, at http://www.babycenter.com/0_infant-potty-training-what-it-is-and-how-to-do-it_1745035.bc (retrieved: 26 July 2014).

47 Farah L. Miller, “Jamie Lynne Grumet, Breastfeeding Mom On ‘TIME Magazine’ Cover, Illustrates Attachment Parenting,” The Huffington Post, 10 May 2012, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/jamie-lynne-grumet-breastfeeding-time-magazine-cover_n_1506096.html (retrieved: 26 July 2014).

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