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Opinion

Opinion

America is dumbing down

January 5, 2012

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A friend of mine hands me what looks like a business card. It says, “Don’t Die Stupid.” As America begins another round of voting to select the next president, or retain the current one, what we need is a stupid test. Flunk it and you shouldn’t vote.

Evidence of the dumbing-down of America is everywhere. Some of it is chronicled in a new book, “Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America” by Daniel J. Flynn.

Flynn contends popular culture has divorced itself from the life of the mind. He has plenty of examples in case television, texting, video games and improper use of English (“she was like and then I was like”) are not enough.

Flynn calls the digital age that has sped up the process by which we receive information “Idiotville,” because it has made us less intelligent.

“Stupid is the new smart,” writes Flynn. He says we arrived at this lower level of brain activity because as recently as the last century “the everyman aspired to high culture and ... intellectuals descended from the ivory tower to speak to the everyman.” Today, he says, “Those who pursue the life of the mind have insulated themselves from popular culture. Speaking in insider jargon and writing unread books, intellectuals have locked themselves away in a ghetto of their own creation.”

That has left the nonintellectual class to fend for itself. One library in Portland, Maine, rather than leading, is being led by the unformed teenage mind. “Video gaming is just a new form of literacy,” says the “teen librarian.” If so, what’s the new form of illiteracy, ignorance about how to use a joystick?

Flynn quotes from Steven Johnson’s book, “Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter.” Sure, and sugar makes us slimmer. Johnson says, “Reality shows ... challenge our emotional intelligence.” Emotional intelligence? In an age when feelings trump everything and too many reality TV programs feature well-heeled housewives and love-starved bachelors, “emotional intelligence” is a contradiction.

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is the slogan of the United Negro College Fund. It certainly is.

Here’s a potent example of what Flynn means when he writes about the destruction of our minds: “At the tony Cushing Academy in western Massachusetts, $40,000 in tuition doesn’t even get you a library anymore. ‘When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’ the prep school’s headmaster notes, adding, ‘This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451.’”

“It is, and ‘1984,’ too,” comments Flynn. “In place of the twenty thousand discarded books, the school spent $500,000 on an Orwellian ‘learning center’ complete with three giant flat-screen televisions and a cappuccino machine. School officials guessed that only a few dozen books had been checked out at any one time.”

The solution? Get rid of the books. Don’t get kids interested in books when they’d rather play “World of Warcraft,” or if younger, watch cartoons, which can’t be that different from “The Canterbury Tales,” right?

Our intellectual depth increasingly resembles floor wax; shiny on top, but lacking depth. A muscle atrophies if it is not used. Similarly, a mind becomes lazy if it is not well fed. And a weak mind dumbs down our politics. We elect people we come to dislike because too many of us require no more of them than we require of ourselves. We then wonder why little seems to work and the country soon suffers.

In Iowa this week, followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, Republican voters will begin the process of selecting a presidential nominee. It’s not that sufficient information about the problems confronting us — along with solutions that actually work — are not available. It’s just that we’re not reading much about them.

Like, ya know, man, that’s just the way it is. Like, ya know what I’m sayin’?

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. His email is tmseditors@tribune.com.

Comments

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 3 months ago

Romney is going to need to dumb down to appeal to the teapublicans.

The process has already started.

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notaubermime 2 years, 3 months ago

"He says we arrived at this lower level of brain activity because as recently as the last century 'the everyman aspired to high culture and ... intellectuals descended from the ivory tower to speak to the everyman.' Today, he says, 'Those who pursue the life of the mind have insulated themselves from popular culture. Speaking in insider jargon and writing unread books, intellectuals have locked themselves away in a ghetto of their own creation.'”

This is so immensely false that it is beyond ridiculous. Scientific information is exceedingly more available to the public now than it was 20 years ago. All you need is an internet connection and you can access scholarly journals, science blogs, research pages of faculty and students, and just about any other piece of information you would wish. Scientists are blogging, writing books, being interviewed on TV, and on radio all across the country. Do not blame the "intellectuals" because you are not listening.

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whats_going_on 2 years, 3 months ago

wow, making this political, eh? You're dumb because you're a STUPID LIBERAL. No YOU'RE dumb because you're a stinky REPUBLICAN. Grow the eff up, seriously.

ALL politicians are taking all of us for fools, as is Hollywood. (Think: Kardisians) You think any politicians are in tune with how any of us live our lives. Not so much. They don't have to play by any of our rules, and they get paid for dumbing America down to the point where we all hate each other and have no CLUE what is going on (Think: Super Pac attack ads that are rarely even 5% truth)

I'm not all about conspiracy theories and such, but is it really a surprise that we collectively are as gullible, lazy, and idiotic when we are clearly getting taken advantage of at every turn?

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

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Charlie Bannister 2 years, 3 months ago

I have a controversial cure for this "dumbing down" of America and so many stupid people voting. Make it a law that only property owners and/or business owners can vote. These are the people who pay the largest share of taxes (local and federal) anyway. This way you create an incentive for people to get educated and make something of themselves so they can become business owners and /or property owners, thereby gaining the right to vote. This would eliminate for the most part the lazy and unmotivated voting for whichever candidate is going to give them the most goodies. You may laugh (I'm sure you will) but it has merit.

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

For a complete read:

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/202429-obama-to-unveil-summer-jobs-initiative

There is Obama's community organizer roots in full bloom.

"At least Obama has an intellectual, reality-based core..."

hahahaha---------thanks for the gut busting laugh nightmare. I'm serious, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! Thanks bro/sis.

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

Has to be the quote of the century by nightmare:

"At least Obama has an intellectual, reality-based core..."


"Obama's new jobs plan includes 110,000 unpaid positions"

http://times247.com/articles/obama-s-new-jobs-plan-includes-110-000-unpaid-positions

lol...way!

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 3 months ago

Stupid is as stupid does. They're doing it all around.

Michelle Bachmann 2012! No wait...

Rick Perry 2012! No wait...

Herman Cain 2012! No wait....

Newt Gingrich 2012! No wait....

Ron Paul 2012! No wait....

Rick "FMOFMAL" Santorum 2012! No wait...

To be continued.....

Popcorn, anyone?

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Kirk Larson 2 years, 3 months ago

This column is pretty funny, It like Newt Gingrich decrying the use of negative campaign ads.

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jonas_opines 2 years, 3 months ago

Cal's Days of Yore articles remind me of the end of this little bit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8H5_l9E3s

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 3 months ago

The New America is perfect for Obama. It has just the right intelligence for his Jihad

Mark Levin: 'We Have a Constitutional Crisis'

"That is a forthright statement of a dictator.”

By Patrick Burke

January 5, 2012

Subscribe to Patrick Burke's posts

On his radio show last night, Mark Levin said that President Barack Obama has caused a “constitutional crisis” by appointing members to the National Labor Relations Board and a director to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without going through the constitutionally required Senate confirmation process.

“We have a constitutional crisis," Levin said. "It is in fact a constitutional crisis."

"The President of the United States is trashing the Constitution now day in and day out,” Levin said.

At one point, Levin likened the explanation Obama made yesterday for appointing these federal officials without Senate confrmation to the "forthright statement of a dictator."

(from a source)

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kugrad 2 years, 3 months ago

The irony of a Cal Thomas article headlined "The dumbing down of America" is simply inescapable.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 3 months ago

when my comments are deleted I must've offended the guilty parties. I guess it's mission accomplished. Nice to know that retribution against arguement baiters is open to being censored. I was named after Henry David Thoreau who advocated civil disobedience in the 1840's against the Mexican War. Please moderator... let three or four of these upstanding citizens constantly berate others with quasi facts and veiled racism and when I give them what they give...censor me....

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 3 months ago

Carter was dispensing sage advice earlier this week to the current occupant of the Oval Office. {snort}

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 3 months ago

Students Laugh At Obama When He Tells Them "You Inspire Me".

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/01/05/students_laugh_at_obama_when_he_tells_them_you_inspire_me.html

The ignorant one can't even fool a bunch of high school students. The razzle-dazzle isn't working anymore Obama. Hope and change is on life support like Obamacare. Psalm 109:8.

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

Liberals big push on the political correctness campaign the past few decades was chiefly designed to stifle thought, or at least the expression of thought---especially thought that countered their twisted ideology. It has been a well executed and insidious plan. Evil liberal progressives own most of the dumb-down-ness of America. The rest of it results from a liberal controlled education system which again, teaches how to be intellectually, emotionally and socially stunted. The rest of the reason for dumbed down-ness is the corrupt liberal media. Conservatives have not played any role in dumbing down the masses. I told you this and you must believe it. ;-)

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 3 months ago

A dangerous mix. Americans are dumber than ever, and yet have so many more ways to express their dumbness.

Twitter, Facebook, and forums such as this.

One only need read the comments posted here to see that America is dumbed down, and is flying that freak flag proudly.

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

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observant 2 years, 3 months ago

If you want to see proof of Cal's statement, look at Cal and the GOP/Teabagger party.

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somedude20 2 years, 3 months ago

I love how some of the jagoffs on this forum are talking about Obama being dumb when these fools were giving all of their support to Bachmann, who is one of the dumbest public figures of all time and makes Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin look like Stephen Hawking. Face it there fudge faces, you ain't got no winnable horse in this election. You will have still have to submit, once again, to a .....gasp....a person of colour.

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jaywalker 2 years, 3 months ago

Wow! Another stinker of a column from Cal. I mean, there's little doubt (at least to me) that we seem to be getting dumber as a society. But while Cal touched on a couple reasons/evidence for such a downtrend, the whole of the piece was disjointed, vague, and lazy.
And why does he always seem to pine for the "days of yore," as if the way-back-when eras mythically (apparently not a word according to spell-check, but I don't care) got everything right? Sure, Snooki makes us collectively less intelligent, but the good ol' days had a helluva lot more illiteracy and bigotry. Hardly a wash.

Thomas' column days should be numbered.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 3 months ago

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson." === Sadly, this sometimes applies to us all as individuals and to both political parties. Both sides have good ideas, but when power shifts and the 'other' promotes what was once 'my' idea, it's no longer of interest to those who once supported it. Cal is interesting sometimes, but this is not one of his finer moments.

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 3 months ago

"GM to call back 8,000 Chevy Volts."

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-source-gm-call-back-8-000-chevy-160059632.html

Another dumb idea from Obama's Government Motors. Stupid is as stupid does!

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beatrice 2 years, 3 months ago

The guy who supports attacks against educated people by calling them "elites" can't suddenly be upset about a dumb nation and expect us to take him seriously. He supported Sarah Palin as the vice presidential pick, for heaven's sake. Palin, outside of a rather tenacious ability to make a buck on limited skills and somewhat above average looks, isn't exactly the sharpest butter knife in the FoxNews tray. She believed Paul Revere went on his infamous ride to warn the British, after all. Thomas also supported Christine O'Donnell during her run for Senate.

Thomas is more than happy to exploit dumb when he sees it playing to his advantage. He attacks it now because the likely Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, is by every definition, an elite. With Romney, suddenly it is time to act like Republicans really do like educated people after all.

Sorry Cal, but even when you lie down with dumb dogs, you still get up with fleas.

At the offense of those who hate repeated comments, I repeat the great line by George Carlin: Consider how stupid the average person is, then realize half of the people are even dumber than that.

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autie 2 years, 3 months ago

Why would anybody call a doctor if they had an election for four hours? Our polls are open from seven till seven...so those elections last 12 hours. Man, TV just gets more weird. I'm sure nobody has ever held an election in a bath tub watching the sunset.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 3 months ago

America is indeed dumbing down, and Thomas points to many of the reasons.

The anti-intellectual populism strain in America has met the "me, now" influence fueled by new technologies such as social media and video games and old technologies like television.

I think we are seeing one result of this in the GOP primary, which has revealed a succession of one-minute wonders able to keep the attention of the dummies for just a few weeks.

These candidates are so unserious and unintellectual (even anti-intellectual), but are able to appeal to the dummies through slogans and attacks with no basis in fact or reality.

Obama took advantage of this as well. The "Hope and Change" message of Obama was about as diffuse a slogan as ever, but it worked.

At least Obama has an intellectual, reality-based core and was just using slogans. These GOP candidates, there is no there there. They are all slogan and no reality or intellect.

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woodscolt 2 years, 3 months ago

"America is dumbing down"........... Yep,  one faux news minute at a time.
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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

As long as progressives have those such as Rachel Maddow spoon-feeding them what they want to hear, Obama could stay in power for ever and ever and ever and......

It's that dratted Fox News propaganda machine in the minds of those like Maddow that keep interloping into their world of political discourse and ruining everything.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 3 months ago

Just watching the Republican pony show is sufficient fodder for the contentions made by the correspondant of this column. Vote for, uh,,,,,gee,,,,,I forgot........somebody.

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Ken Lassman 2 years, 3 months ago

Cal Thomas is such a hypocrite. Will he call out the republican candidates when they start their anti-science, anti-intellectual litanies against evolution as "only a theory" that should be taught side-by-side with intelligent design? Will he call them on questioning the science behind the evidence that humans are changing the climate, despite the fact that one of the head deniers finally threw in the towel and admitted that the evidence is clear and getting clearer?

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and if he accuses Obama as symptomatic of a hedonistic disregard for intellectual pursuits, then he needs to look at the flagrant anti-intellectualism and anti-science attitude that permeates the GOP in general and most if not all republican candidates specifically.

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its_just_math 2 years, 3 months ago

You mean Obama is perfect for an already dumbed-down America. Then we see good examples of emotional stupidity in the corrupt liberal Obamamania media, like Chris Matthews admitting on camera he got an actual feeling up his legs when he hears Obama speak. Wutev, bro. Cal has scared me today. Is he subtlely predicting Democrats will get and maintain permanent rule?

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 3 months ago

Obama is perfect for a "Dumbing down America"

Say some good things about Obama tuschkahouma. Make me feel good.

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Mike Ford 2 years, 3 months ago

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Ragingbear 2 years, 3 months ago

Idiocracy FTW.

I can't believe you like money too. We should hang out.

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Liberty_One 2 years, 3 months ago

I like how people support Obama by comparing him to George Bush. Brilliant plan.

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Phoenixman 2 years, 3 months ago

"As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species."

"The years passed, mankind became stupider at a frightening rate. Some had high hopes the genetic engineering would correct this trend in evolution, but sadly the greatest minds and resources where focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections."

Idiocracy 2006

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

Isn't quite a feat to know that FOX news has received the award for their viewers to know less than those who listen to no news at all.

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mloburgio 2 years, 3 months ago

Rich Cordray will be Obama's 29th recess appointment. At this point in GeorgeW.Bush's first term, he had made 61 recess appointments

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 3 months ago

The current resident of the White House is ignorant of the Constitution. He thinks he has the ability to declare when the Senate is in recess.

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jonas_opines 2 years, 3 months ago

There should be a new term named after Cal Thomas, referring to the fetishisation of an imaginary past, so strong that it constantly distorts your ability to look at the present.

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budman 2 years, 3 months ago

And remember you're never the idiot, its only the other guy or society as a whole,

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