America Dumbs Down

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    May 19, 2014 4:29 AM GMT
    The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

    Jonathon Gatehouse
    May 15, 2014
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    South Carolina’s state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There’s a designated dance—the shag—as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home’s 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth. Teeth from the woolly proboscidean, dug up by slaves on a local plantation in 1725, were among the first remains of an ancient species ever discovered in North America. Forty-three other states had already laid claim to various dinosaurs, trilobites, primitive whales and even petrified wood. It seemed like a no-brainer. “Fossils tell us about our past,” the Grade 2 student wrote.

    And, as it turns out, the present, too. The bill that Olivia inspired has become the subject of considerable angst at the legislature in the state capital of Columbia. First, an objecting state senator attached three verses from Genesis to the act, outlining God’s creation of all living creatures. Then, after other lawmakers spiked the amendment as out of order for its introduction of the divinity, he took another crack, specifying that the Columbian mammoth “was created on the sixth day with the other beasts of the field.” That version passed in the senate in early April. But now the bill is back in committee as the lower house squabbles over the new language, and it’s seemingly destined for the same fate as its honouree—extinction.

    What has doomed Olivia’s dream is a raging battle in South Carolina over the teaching of evolution in schools. Last week, the state’s education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.

    Charles Darwin’s signature discovery—first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since—long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.

    The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

    If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith.

    In a country bedevilled by mass shootings—Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech—efforts at gun control have given way to ever-laxer standards. Georgia recently passed a law allowing people to pack weapons in state and local buildings, airports, churches and bars. Florida is debating legislation that will waive all firearm restrictions during state emergencies like riots or hurricanes. (One opponent has moved to rename it “an Act Relating to the Zombie Apocalypse.”) And since the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., 12 states have passed laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, and 20 more are considering such measures.

    The cost of a simple appendectomy in the United States averages $33,000 and it’s not uncommon for such bills to top six figures. More than 15 per cent of the population has no health insurance whatsoever. Yet efforts to fill that gaping hole via the Affordable Health Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—remain distinctly unpopular. Nonsensical myths about the government’s “real” intentions have found so much traction that 30 per cent still believe that there will be official “death panels” to make decisions on end-of-life care.

    Since 2001, the U.S. government has been engaged in an ever-widening program of spying on its own—and foreign—citizens, tapping phones, intercepting emails and texts, and monitoring social media to track the movements, activities and connections of millions. Still, many Americans seem less concerned with the massive violations of their privacy in the name of the War on Terror, than imposing Taliban-like standards on the lives of others. Last month, the school board in Meridian, Idaho voted to remove The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from its Grade 10 supplemental reading list following parental complaints about its uncouth language and depictions of sex and drug use. When 17-year-old student Brady Kissel teamed up with staff from a local store to give away copies at a park as a protest, a concerned citizen called police. It was the evening of April 23, which was also World Book Night, an event dedicated to “spreading the love of reading.”

    If ignorance is contagious, it’s high time to put the United States in quarantine.

    Americans have long worried that their education system is leaving their children behind. With good reason: national exams consistently reveal how little the kids actually know. In the last set, administered in 2010 (more are scheduled for this spring), most fourth graders were unable to explain why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and only half were able to order North America, the U.S., California and Los Angeles by size. Results in civics were similarly dismal. While math and reading scores have improved over the years, economics remains the “best” subject, with 42 per cent of high school seniors deemed “proficient.”

    They don’t appear to be getting much smarter as they age. A 2013 survey of 166,000 adults across 20 countries that tested math, reading and technological problem-solving found Americans to be below the international average in every category. (Japan, Finland, Canada, South Korea and Slovakia were among the 11 nations that scored significantly higher.)

    The trends are not encouraging. In 1978, 42 per cent of Americans reported that they had read 11 or more books in the past year. In 2014, just 28 per cent can say the same, while 23 per cent proudly admit to not having read even one, up from eight per cent in 1978. Newspaper and magazine circulation continues to decline sharply, as does viewership for cable news.

    Read the rest of this article here: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/america-dumbs-down/
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14310

    May 19, 2014 12:00 PM GMT
    America is falling big time thanks to all the NARROW MINDED BIBLE THUMPING SCREWBALLS who want to replace scientific thinking and common sense with biblical fiction. When I see views of the disastrous urban decline of older northern cities like Detroit, Flint, Baltimore and many others, I see what the rest of the US is going to look like not too far down the road. A very sad and tragic scenario indeed.
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    May 19, 2014 12:53 PM GMT
    Pro-science and pro-intellectual thinking are the two biggest threats to a corrupt government.

    Considering that the U.S. is still considered by many as the most powerful nation on earth, it's only logical that the curriculum would be manipulated to decrease "real" education through vigorous pro-religion concepts.

    And this is nothing new. Religion has been used to keep people in the dark since it was invented.
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    May 19, 2014 10:19 PM GMT
    God Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...
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    May 19, 2014 11:16 PM GMT
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14310

    May 19, 2014 11:25 PM GMT
    If the US doesn't start embracing scientific and empirical thinking and reject all religious fairy tales, than this country's days as being the most powerful nation on earth is greatly numbered.
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    May 19, 2014 11:39 PM GMT
    This is true. I see this everywhere as a truck driver. I go to places and they post no weapons allowed signs.

    Is very strange - a lot of this statistics or not is due to fear and economics... People foam at the mouth over certain subjects and then over time people just accept their generational impoverishment. People do seem happy at places I mention but, the communities I speak of generally subsist on credit..

    The psychology is insurmountably distressing if thought of for extended durations.

    I disagree with economics and barriers created by a lot of institutions but, not with learning from them... I see that is stark contrast to significant amounts of the country.

    Here as this is a community for fitness much of America appears a community dedicated to illness. To step outside that is at times akin to not be "one of us" as I've heard.

    To be other or convert able, is very strange... Or to have a good one rather than be a good one.. Is very startling

    Some of these places I threaten to hit people with the truck, it is bewildering to require such stances.

    I write this not to be disparaging so much as present general observations affirming this..
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    May 19, 2014 11:41 PM GMT
    A lot of people just accept these stories but, when I look at he billboards and scoff or make witty remarks about them with the windows down people stop.

    Is a good idea to respond to the ad campaigns for Jesus etc than the persons directly to instigate thought...
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    May 20, 2014 12:00 AM GMT
    Additionally one must consider that religion is institutional - beyond church I.e I just looked at a consignee's statement of purpose and Jesus Christ is largely prominent...

    I worry from things like this that rather than reconciliation or harmonizing people will wish for one way or another. Ideologies or symbols become and or are ultimately irrelevant abstractions. I wish people stop praying for the hands of another that their's can accomplish.

    I guess what I'm learning is people are less often inspired by stories of another instead are pacified.

    After reading my posts I obviously care for this very much.. awkward.
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    May 20, 2014 12:04 AM GMT
    "Some of these places I threaten to hit people with the truck, it is bewildering to require such stances."

    Snaz, Drive Safely and don't hit anyone. When you get back home sit down and unload a good rant on all of us here.
    We'll listen. Nobody gets hurt. You'll stay out of prison.
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    May 20, 2014 12:08 AM GMT
    Oh that is sweet I don't stay angry about it, they're usually miserable - I'm laughing at them at the same time occasionally. People have tried to run me off the road or play chicken with me, it is really weird. Occasionally it is do or die :/ some people are nice too though buy, the bad times make strong impressions.

    Omg I lose my job if I hit a person but, they die... Is very very weird. Weird and dumb.. also depressing
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    May 20, 2014 1:16 AM GMT
    showme said
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.



    I don't care what anyone does, as long as it doesn't affect me. It's the left that is constantly telling others what not to do.

    That said, I do get your point about religious people, who are on the right AND left.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2603

    May 20, 2014 1:39 AM GMT
    It`s quite a disturbing article given its devastating description of the nation, and the USA is the leading western country. Much of it rings true. I fear the USA is slowly losing its mind and reason.

    Sadly, this dumbed down trend isn`t confined to America; all western countries are succumbing, some quicker than others. My own is second only to USA in poor education standards, conspiracy theories, and the trivia of celebrity lives, etc. The one difference here is there`s a lot less of that pervasive, organized/extreme/fanatical/fundamentalist religiosity invading politics. This latter movement represents the greatest threat to the American way of life; far more than any foreign terrorists.

    The point about higher education is well made: people are no longer educated any more at university. There`s none of this nonsense about the love of learning for its own sake or appreciating critical thought and debate. It`s all about training people for jobs, nothing more; pure instrumentality. Students` horizons are contracting, not expanding.

    Two features that are making the situation worse: one, a mainstream media obsessed with concision and simple dichotomies, and inclusion of all viewpoints regardless of their intrinsic worth rather than high standards of reporting, and an emphasis on belief and feeling trumping thought and rationality(the BBC now grudginglyy accepts it distorted the arguments over climate changes in pursuit of balance and fairness); playing back to the public what it already feels and knows in the popularity and advertising stakes; and two, the internet, which has legitimated an onslaught of opinion over fact, and the stupidity and abuse which hide behind anonymity.

  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    May 20, 2014 1:43 AM GMT
    Everything is either condensed to a Tweet or soundbite, them the reactions set in. People are the worst.
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    May 20, 2014 1:52 AM GMT
    showme said
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.

    It's not irony. It's stupidity.
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    May 20, 2014 2:38 AM GMT
    Blakes7 said
    showme said
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.



    I don't care what anyone does, as long as it doesn't affect me. It's the left that is constantly telling others what not to do.


    Do you think it's wrong to tell people "not to" kill? What about "not to" steal or rape or a million other things? Then you should understand we should also be able to tell people "not to" discriminate.
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    May 20, 2014 2:42 AM GMT
    Louisiana...


    icon_rolleyes.gif
    Bonus points if you can spot the facepalm in the video. icon_lol.gif
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    May 20, 2014 2:47 AM GMT
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    May 20, 2014 2:54 AM GMT
    coolarmydude saidLouisiana...


    icon_rolleyes.gif
    Bonus points if you can spot the facepalm in the video. icon_lol.gif


    Oh..........my..............Gawd. The stupidity........it hurts!
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    May 20, 2014 3:00 AM GMT
    Last week in Idaho...
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    May 20, 2014 3:01 AM GMT
    coolarmydude saidLast week in Idaho...
    http://youtu.be/CQlPcwiruaY?t=52m28s


    Yeah, I already made a thread about that one. What a hoot.
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    May 20, 2014 10:39 AM GMT
    Scruffypup said
    Blakes7 said
    showme said
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.



    I don't care what anyone does, as long as it doesn't affect me. It's the left that is constantly telling others what not to do.


    Do you think it's wrong to tell people "not to" kill?
    Then why is the left for abortion?

    What about "not to" steal or rape or a million other things?
    The right is constantly calling for better law enforcement and stronger punishments, including the death penalty.

    Then you should understand we should also be able to tell people "not to" discriminate.


    Define "discriminate". Everyone does that all the time, as they make choices throughout the day. If you mean against people of varying backgrounds, I could produce dozens of people in my life who'd beg to differ.
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    May 20, 2014 3:10 PM GMT
    coolarmydude saidLast week in Idaho...

    Was that real or sketch comedy?icon_eek.gif

    (At least the crazed biker supports gay people...)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    May 20, 2014 3:40 PM GMT
    Blakes7 said
    showme said
    Blakes7 saidGod Forbid everyone doesn't live the way we want them too...


    Lol, ironic coming from a right winger.



    I don't care what anyone does, as long as it doesn't affect me. It's the left that is constantly telling others what not to do.

    That said, I do get your point about religious people, who are on the right AND left.


    Actually, it has been my experience that it is Republicans who try to ban everything from coloring your dog's fur to having anything but procreational intended sex in the missionary position.

    But I guess it does depend on where you live and which party controls the state government.
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    May 20, 2014 10:03 PM GMT
    I was wondering if this dumbing down is why there are so many crackpot diets that are popular. Although crackpot diets have always been going in and out of vogue so maybe it's just that they're getting more traction these days.

    But mainly I'm just amazed at how these crackpot diets have absolutely no scientific validity and yet people get so worked up over them and make the most bizarre claims about things that are supposedly toxic or will enable you to live years beyond your normal life expectancy.