Giant can be lulled into stupidity

February 4, 2011


ITEM: Only 28 percent of high school science teachers consistently follow National Research Council guidelines encouraging them to present students evidence of evolution. Thirteen percent “explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design ...”

These are among the findings of Penn State political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer after examining data from a representative survey of 926 high school biology teachers. Writing in the Jan. 28 issue of Science magazine, they report that most science teachers — 60 percent — cheat controversy by such stratagems as telling students it does not matter if they “believe” in evolution, so long as they understand enough to pass a test. Or they teach evolution on a par with creationism and encouraging students to make up their own minds.

Once upon a time, there lived a stupid giant.

The giant had not always been stupid. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say the giant had once revered intelligence, reason and the byproducts thereof. Indeed, the giant was renowned for an ingenuity and standard of living that made it the envy of the world.

But much of the world did more than envy the giant. Much of the world admired and respected it. Its basic decency, along with its strength and intelligence, set it apart. There came a time, however, when, though the giant retained its strength and arguably even its decency, it lost its intelligence.

No one can say exactly how and when the loss occurred. There was no great blast of thunder and lightning to herald it, no sudden instant when the giant’s intelligence plummeted dramatically from the instant before.

No, stupidity crept over the giant with the stealth of twilight, a product less of one abrupt moment than of a thousand moments of complacency, of resting on laurels, of allowing curiosity to be teased and bullied out of bright children, of dumbing down textbooks so kids could get better grades with less work, of using “elite” like a curse word. And, of behaving as if knowing things, and being able to extrapolate from and otherwise make critical use of, the things one knows, was a betrayal of some fundamental human authenticity — some need to keep it real.

Stupidity stole over the giant until it could no longer tell science from faith, or conventional wisdom from actual wisdom and in any event, valued ideological purity above them all. Stupidity snaked over the giant until science teachers shrank from teaching science, history books contained history that wasn’t history, late-night comics got easy laughs from people on the street who could not say when the War of 1812 was fought, political leaders told outright lies with blithe smiles and no fear of being caught, and you would not have been surprised to hear that someone had fixed mathematics, so that 2 plus 2 could now equal 17, thus preserving the all-important self-esteem of second-grade kids.

Some regarded the giant’s stupidity as a danger. They reasoned that when one is so big that one’s merest movement or slightest utterance affects the entire world, it’s a good idea if those movements and utterances are animated by something more than autonomic function.

Others saw the giant’s stupidity as an opportunity. They learned eagerly until they surpassed the giant’s intellect. They grew until they rivaled the giant’s size and strength. They did not attempt to match the giant’s decency. They considered decency a hindrance.

And the giant? It sat on its haunches in the mud as the world changed about it and new giants rose and shook their fists. The giant did not notice. It was watching “The Jersey Shore” on MTV.

And it lived obliviously ever after.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.


Paul R Getto 6 years, 1 month ago

Raise 'em dumb and keep 'em dumb. The mantra of the anti-science crowd. Are we seeing a medieval triumph of old ideas as we struggle to grow as a species and see this happening? The triumph of ideology over reason. We should be used to this by now.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 1 month ago

You're right Paul. This has been happening for at least three decades. We're kinda like frogs in a pan of hot water in that respect. In other aspects, we're becoming somewhat like the Nacerima. The article at this link provide a brief look at their society, https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"Why didn't Pitts mention the massive fraud that hysterical global warming scientists were caught feeding this giant he made up?"

Did he need to? He pretty well described the ideologically based willful ignorance that make you susceptible to regurgitating such statements as the one above.

Olympics 6 years, 1 month ago

same tactics to attack evolution are being used with global warming.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 1 month ago

@Tom, you should wake up before you start posting.. I can disregard CorkyBerry, but I think you know better. The parable has nothing to do with President Obama, his administration's education policies won't fully come to fruition for at least another year; I think you know that but are unwilling to admit it. President Bush's NCLB was/is one attempt to increase educational achievement but using negative reinforcement. President Obama's attempt is his "Race to the Top" program which uses positive reinforcement. Personally, not just because I'm part of the loony left (as I've been told), I think positive reinforcement is better than negative. Negative leaves scars (I still have some - really), positive does not.

Additionally, NCLB is based on faulty research from when President Bush was the TX Governor. It worked there for one year because his administration arranged for about an additional 25,000 underachieving students to be placed in special ed which was not tested during the program. After improvements were shown, the vast majority of that 25,000 to go back into the general population, which wasn't tested again.

The big difference with NCLB now on a national scale is that schools are punished because the special ed students can't make the standard. Their performance is lumped in with all the rest of the students. That's one reason why 34 school districts didn't make AYP in 2009 (http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=UvXQL5KF57c%3d&tabid=403). I think you would agree that's not acceptable. especially when the bar is set so low (http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=403). Districts just have to get a B- in Reading and a C in Math. A student with those grades would have a hard time getting into a reputable junior college, let alone a university.

I won't address evolution vs creationism here. That's already been done to death elsewhere on this forum. Though, I can't remember on which side of the fence you fell on that one. Refresh my memory, please.

The problem really goes as far back as the late 60's, maybe earlier. I think Paul hit the nail on the head when he said, "The triumph of ideology over reason. We should be used to this by now."

Ralph Reed 6 years, 1 month ago

@Corky. Read the whole post before you retort, please. From my post: "The problem really goes as far back as the late 60's, maybe earlier." President Bush wasn't on the national stage then. Please, show me where I said, "It's Bush's fault." I simply provided two examples and gave my preference of positive over negative reinforcement.

Do you have anything substantive to add? Tom did (a little), can you?

Ralph Reed 6 years, 1 month ago

@ (all) My apologies for my mistyping above. I meant to say CorkyHundley, not CorkyBerry.

George Lippencott 6 years, 1 month ago

Whose problem is this?

  1. Students who do not apply themselves
  2. Parents who demand little or nothing from their kids
  3. Press seeking conflict rather than solutions
  4. Academics with poorly reasoned research paid for by protagonists
  5. Spin, spin and more spin (in my day lying)
  6. Unions more interested in power than progress
  7. An increasing segment of the society that wants the government to tilt the playing field in their direction at the expanse of the rest of us
  8. Power hungry life time "lawgivers"
  9. Demonization


jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

It's our problem as a nation.

Your list is more of a "blame" list.

George Lippencott 6 years, 1 month ago

Absolutely. Are we going to solve it as a nation or stick a small portion of the population with the bill??

George Lippencott 6 years, 1 month ago

Or a cause list. Befoire you can fix a problem you do need to now what caused it so you can address the real problem.

Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

Blame is just another term for laying responsibility where it belongs.

Blaming ourselves "as a nation" is both true and great except that it diffuses the blame so broadly that no one can be expected to do anything. However, blame the student who does not apply himself and just maybe, that student will change.

Barack Obama, Richard Dawkins, and Ken Ham can do a whole lot less for and to your lazy son or daughter than you as a parent can. It's about time #1 and #2 were taken seriously as both the cause and the solution of our educational underperformance.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

I disagree.

There's a big difference between saying "who's problem is this" and "who's to blame".

I'm not blaming the nation when I say it's our problem - I'm simply recognizing that the problem affects us as a whole country.

Therefore, we all have a vested interest in coming up with some ideas for solutions.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 1 month ago

So how do we fix that? ...With legislation? What legislation are you proposing? Is this a governmental issue? Are you wanting to make it a governmental issue? Do you want the government telling parents how to raise their kids? Do you want them making laws in that regard? What do you want to happen "on the ground"? Can your plan be accomplished? If so, then how? Will it involve a totalitarian regime?~) Will it involve governmental intervention? Are you simply complaining or do you have your own ideas? Oh, and who are "The Asians"? Are you Asian? Can you become Asian? Can you make us Asian? Can the government make us Asian? Perhaps so... What do you think?

oldbaldguy 6 years, 1 month ago

I have always liked Leonard Pitts. He hit it on the head, Jersey Shore, its cool to be stupid, HIp Hop, Glen Beck, the Vue, Larry King, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Housewifes of who knows where, not insisting on performance in school. There was a time that by the 8th grade you could actually know something and may be able to think. I see it everyday when I meet with court appointed clients. God help us.

Fossick 6 years, 1 month ago

America truly has a love affair with ignorance, but as we have been subsidizing it for so long, we should not be surprised that we have a surplus. Stupidity carries no real penalty in America, and it's a lot less work than learning. The giant got stupid when he realized that go to work or watch Maury, it made no difference - the checks came in the mail either way.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 1 month ago

In other aspects, we're becoming somewhat like the Nacerima. ....... Ralph. Good point. I happened to read about these folks a while back while discussing a course a relative was taking. It's interesting we are still under the sway of the magicians, hundreds of years after we should have put them out of business. I guess we'll all have to pray to Biame. The Australian "Great One" and creator who lives in the heavens. Maybe he/she can provide some guidance. The current big three SG's and their followers are sure messing things up.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 1 month ago

Come on Corky.

"If you can’t keep up with the conversation, best not try to join in." (Dr. Hannibal Lecter)

oldbaldguy 6 years, 1 month ago

Have you watched "Idiocracy" lately? That is where we are heading. More likely a rich educated elite and the rest of us ignorant peasants.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 1 month ago

OBG: As I said when Muscular Sam was elected: Welcome to the new middle ages. Kochkansas, where the deer and the unicorn play.

George Lippencott 6 years, 1 month ago

More money is not the solution. Money better applied and leveraged with discipline and joint effort is! Could old "sam" be seeking that solution!!

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