Dumb and Dumber

Who is smarter than a 5th grader? Most adults may find it increasingly difficult remembering facts, tidbits and skills acquired many years ago in school, college and university. The pervasive culture of infotainment where anti-intellectualism is on the rise, comment like "“too much learning can be a dangerous thing” and anti-rationalism comment like “the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion” taken only as face value. Religious fundamentalism's antipathy toward science is mostly masqueraded as benign questioning on the authenticity of scientific facts.

Susan Jacoby points out in her recently published book that "Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters."

Now this indeed is a scary observation. When citizenry overwhelmingly thinks that essential knowledge is the mere matter of neglect, subject to complete ignorance, progress of this pampered "civilization" may not remain so much progressive down the road filled with nonsense infotainment. Reorientation and immediate redirection of mental sharpness from continuing numbness toward increased acquiring rational knowledge perhaps retains survivability of our human race after all. Otherwise down to the stone age. Or is it non-stop TV soap age?

Susan Jacoby writes in her Washington Post article: "I cannot prove that reading for hours in a treehouse (which is what I was doing when I was 13) creates more informed citizens than hammering away at a Microsoft Xbox or obsessing about Facebook profiles. But the inability to concentrate for long periods of time -- as distinct from brief reading hits for information on the Web -- seems to me intimately related to the inability of the public to remember even recent news events. It is not surprising, for example, that less has been heard from the presidential candidates about the Iraq war in the later stages of the primary campaign than in the earlier ones, simply because there have been fewer video reports of violence in Iraq. Candidates, like voters, emphasize the latest news, not necessarily the most important news."

About the "arrogance of lack of knowledge" Susan Jacoby comments,
"The problem is not just the things we do not know (consider the one in five American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, thinks the sun revolves around the Earth); it's the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism -- a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse. Not knowing a foreign language or the location of an important country is a manifestation of ignorance; denying that such knowledge matters is pure anti-rationalism."

Is there a quick fix from this agonizingly neglected problem? Ms. Jacobs comments: "There is no quick cure for this epidemic of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism; rote efforts to raise standardized test scores by stuffing students with specific answers to specific questions on specific tests will not do the job. Moreover, the people who exemplify the problem are usually oblivious to it. ("Hardly anyone believes himself to be against thought and culture," Hofstadter noted.) It is past time for a serious national discussion about whether, as a nation, we truly value intellect and rationality. If this indeed turns out to be a "change election," the low level of discourse in a country with a mind taught to aim at low objects ought to be the first item on the change agenda."

Read these two articles discussed above from the following sources: