Thursday, April 03, 2008

Are we dumb?

My early apologies to MPR's Bob Collins whose post and subsequent update on The Current prompted me to write this and blatantly steal the title from his News Cut blog. I had to do it but I aslo had to think for myself about the question "are we dumb?" because there are varying levels of dumb that many of us see on a daily basis. Hell, even I partake in the dumb from time to time because it's a release. A person can't always be "on" and has to be allowed to just chill.

The bigger question I had is this: Is being smart, well-read, educated or even prone to thinking, doing, living or acting outside of the mainstream being viewed by the majority as elitist? I mean that to say that if you are "different", well-spoken or cringe at the style or manner in how others talk, write or act does that make you elite? I tend to think elitism is viewing yourself as better than others. Cringing at the slaughtering of correct language, punctuation or proper grammar is something which we were supposedly taught in elementary school.

Unfortunately (maybe) those stringent rules which were supposedly instilled in us by our teachers with their tightly-pulled buns and glasses perched on the tips of their noses become increasingly lax as the years progress. We glean language from the sources we witness on a daily basis whether those be television, music, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines or the conversation with others. I tend to think that those sources contribute to the greater good and create a more rounded person.

The biggest downfall, though, is simply forgetting those lessons we learned in school. I can say that I basically glided through school. I rarely (if ever) took homework home which made that homework simply work. On the flip side (again, maybe) I didn't want to spend an eternity in college. In all honesty I wish I had attended longer but I finished with the degree and education I wanted at the time and sprinted in to the job market.

I'm not here to brag that I am better than anyone else because I know damn well that I'm not. I do have that nagging question in the back of my head that wonders if we are becoming simply dumb. I see it in television as I've watched shows with simple or no plot at all succeed wildly while those with in-depth plots struggle to succeed. Is it a matter of attention span? Did people centuries ago nod off at the mere mention of one of Shakespeare's plays? Will language devolve to the point that txt msg spk (text message speak if you didn't catch it) is widely accepted?

10 comments:

The Future Was Yesterday said...

Good posts roll out of you like silk off a spool, don't they?:)

"Hell, even I partake in the dumb from time to time because it's a release. A person can't always be "on" and has to be allowed to just chill."
Well, you've read my blog. I invented "dumb", so some say. "Grow Up" I'm told a lot. I have a college degree, and one I'm still working on, from the UofL (That's university of life), that will never be complete until I die. I write the silly stuff I do because I want to let my hair down (I used to be able to when I had some:P), relax, and plain be goofy ass silly . Call it dumb if you wish...I call it a survival method.

"Is being smart, well-read, educated or even prone to thinking, doing, living or acting outside of the mainstream being viewed by the majority as elitist?"
I honestly think those traits in a person is feared by those less possessed with those traits. "He knows something I don't."

"I tend to think elitism is viewing yourself as better than others."
Agreed, 1,000%! See Conservatism for a textbook example.

"Will language devolve to the point that txt msg spk"
I think it already has in many cases. Then, you add "Black English".....

"our teachers with their tightly-pulled buns "
I don't recall any of my teachers with tight buns.:) They were all these drab "dressed in sackcloth" types.:)

No said...

Good post...from what I could read...as I get older, I can't seem small print very well..time to pull out the granny glasses....I need to wear them around my neck, I think with the classic rope...

I miss the old shows like "Maude," "Mary Tyler Moore," and "Rhoda." Don't see any shows like this anymore...Sex and the City (and the copy cat Lipstick Jungle--yuck) attempt to grap that female market, but to me, it is a lip glossed, unreal vision of the real woman.

Beth said...

I consider myself smart, well-read, educated - and I do cringe at poor grammar (my own or that of others) but by no means feel I am elitist. I respect far too many other people who are not well-read or "educated."
Having said that, I am truly amazed at the number of people I know and respect who watch reality TV. If it's an escape, it's one that has no appeal to me. (But I'm not a snob!)

I like the new look of your blog.

Sornie said...

As I Said, I only partly blame reality TV but I've met people (honestly) who seem to exist on a diet consisting of only reality fare. I've also come across people who are so engrossed in their myspace pages that they don't have any actual, in-the-flesh friends. That's where balance comes in. I know I don't read books as much as I should, instead I read magazines which allow writers to explore issues in greater depth than in newspapers. It all boils down to moderation of all things to keep the dumb away.

Michelle Ann said...

I consider myself an elitist smart ass. Actually, poor communication is something that actually makes me cringe...internally and at times externally if the grammar crime is particularly heinous. The one way I do gauge intelligence/smarts is someone's brand of humor. Yes, I can laugh at bathroom humor with the best of them, but I find Dennis Miller or Bill Maher to be geniuses. It was a sad day when Dennis Miller was removed from Monday Night Football because the audience was incapable of "getting the joke". I consider this to be the "dumbing down" of America.

Love the new look

Sornie said...

Amen Michelle Ann, being able to fit in with so many different "cliques" and appreciate and use bathroom humor to your advantage is actually a plus. Maybe we can team up and write an epic "how-to" book on bathroom humor.

Brendan said...

I don't think the general public has gotten any dumber, at least not during my lifetime. I took plenty of crap in school for being a "teacher's pet," simply for doing well on tests and in answering questions. And that was a disheartening number of decades ago.

Regarding television, I think there's a tendency for people to cite a few good shows selected from a long stretch of time, and then compare them to the worst of today, and conclude that this means something. Yes, "reality" TV is brain-killing. But so were many shows from back then, even with the increased competition brought on by far fewer channels. People also fail to consider just how good some TV is; e.g., "The West Wing," "The Daily Show," "Sopranos," "The Wire."

The one area I find worrisome when considering the possible increase in dumbness is the urge by politicians both to act this way and to cater to the idiots, and along with that, the willingness of the MSM to label such people "one of the people" and "a guy you'd want to have a beer with." Fortunately, I think we're starting to learn our lesson in this regard.

VE said...

If felt so at home when I saw the title of this post. Like comfort food...

Sornie said...

Great point toward the end Brendan. The biggest problem with even the possibility of the dumbing down of society is the risk of our elected officials being "one of us". Not to try to piss a good chunk of people off but I think we have seen what happens when we elect, as you said, the guy you could see yourself having a beer with.

As far as the good TV that people bring up, I am a big fan of Dexter now that it's being shown on CBS. It's a dark show with dark subject matter and a dark lead character but it is so compelling and well written that it's hard to overlook.

No said...

I'm just kind of a dumb ass a lot of the time, though...I just admit it...fortunately, those on reality t.v. make me feel a whole lot smarter!!! Thanks for the great debate, Sornie..you're the best...and I do like the new look...