Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is The Whole World Dumbing Down?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allC GradesOpens a new window on Make beliefs Comix
A few months ago I read and reviewed Shelley Gare’s book, The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense. I was shaken by the déjà vu I experienced in every chapter. Her book is a treatise on the evolution and spread of postmodernism.

Recently, while doing my usual reading and follow-ups on matters educational, I stumbled on a brief clip of Branford Marsalis, renowned Jazz musician and educationalist. I admired Marsalis from afar and for many years I’ve appreciated his musicianship.

To hear this iconic, clear-minded musician and teacher talk of his students brought Gare’s almost prophetic words back to me with a vengeance:

Airheads, at their most extreme, can worry only about
themselves and the rest of the world can go to buggery.

Are our learners catching airheadism too?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Janet Clarey said...

A strong statement in this video. You may want to see the movie Idiocracy. I think we're dumbing down as a society.

V Yonkers said...

"Dumbing down" is in the eyes of the beholder though. What is important is that in the US at any rate, we have begun to classified "smart" or "knowledgeable" as being able to take standardized tests about basic facts (i.e. math formulas, defining terms, and writing in a standard format regardless of audience or purpose). We have also relegated anything outside of math, science, and technology as "fluff" and not real knowledge.

The result? Students that ask me how I am going to grade the one exam in the class I'm teaching as I am not giving them "facts" in class, but rather having them apply concepts to real world situations. One student complained, "This is all subjective so how will you grade us?" They then go into the workforce and will do only the work which is outlined for them to do as they have been conditioned that this is what they must do to succeed. The "better" students don't ask questions. They don't ask "why" or look too deeply into standardized test questions, because if they do, they can see multiple answers.

Meanwhile, the "dumb" students are those that look beyond questions, show imagination, and don't conform to standards. I have seem this happen over and over. My best students are excited in my class because they demonstrate that they ARE smart, and the good test takers are upset because they can't just come in take notes and spit back information.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua!

Kia ora e Janet!

Thank you for this. I must look for the opportunity to see Idiosyncrasy. It would appear to be as crazy as some of the real-life situations described so ably in Shelley Gare's book!

Kia ora Virginia!

As I mentioned in my comment to you on your own post, high achieving students tend to be focused on their achievement grades before considering what they have to do to bring about that achievement through learning.

The culture within society has a habit of placing an emphasis on grading and high achievement, instead of on the learning that could result in that achievement.

Catchya later