Thursday, August 13, 2009

History and the Movies: Eugenics and the "Dumbing Down" Factor


William Shockley died 20 years ago, August 12, 1989. He brought computers into the modern age by co-inventing transistors, an achievement that earned him a Nobel Prize in physics and spent decades bringing about further innovations that make the world we live in the electronic interconnected world it is. He also believed that intellectually deficient undesirables were reproducing at a far faster clip than those deemed to be intellectually sophisticated and should be sterilized. This despite that fact that going back to the earliest moments of eugenics there were biologists arguing that intelligence could breed stupidity and vice versa. He ignored facts in favor of belief and dressed it up in a cloak of pseudo-science to convince himself he was right. And many people, from Francis Crick to Roger Pearson, were likewise convinced. Convinced despite the Flynn Effect which states that intelligence as measured by intelligence tests continually improves over time as does semantic and episodic memory. Convinced despite the fact that all around them are examples of parents smarter than their children and others of children smarter than their parents. Convinced despite the fact that perfectly healthy individuals have children with Down Syndrome (gaining higher possibility as the woman ages. Intelligence of the mother is not a factor). Convinced despite the abundant knowledge that breeding only certain traits leads to a loss in genetic diversity which leaves a population vulnerable to biological and environmental factors that can lead to their extinction. In the end, all of this simply goes to prove once again that an individual can possess a high order of intelligence in one area and still be fundamentally lacking in overall reason, logic and common sense.

Recently on these pages I reviewed Homo Sapiens 1900, a documentary on the history of Eugenics. The very next day Roger Ebert published his post on the gathering Dark Age of Cinema, a post fundamentally lacking in overall reason, logic and common sense. It falls into the same traps that Shockley and company fell into: We're all getting dumber and if we don't stop it now it will be too late. The post has already been covered and analyzed and dissected by far better writers than yours truly but what hasn't been called to the fore is the disturbing nature of these types of beliefs, and I find his post both disturbing and insulting. I am not implying that Roger Ebert or any of the well over 700 people who agreed with him in his comment thread are ready to start sterilizing people. I am simply suggesting that a worldview based on ones intellectual superiority to the great huddled ignorant masses is not only egotistical but intellectually counterproductive (how could it not be counterproductive since you're never engaging those you look down upon - they're simply not worthy). Ebert uses no hard evidence or scientific study to support his point, merely the box office numbers for the film The Hurt Locker. It is a searing drama about a bomb squad unit in Iraq. Like multitudes, hell, legions of other searing dramas made in the last 100 years, teenagers are not flocking to see it. No big surprise there. And yet, somehow, this spells doom for the future of cinema. Why this film? It's an unanswerable question. When one decides that the world is filled with dolts common sense usually goes out the window. Inadvertently funny is the post-script in which Ebert writes, "There has been an overnight outpouring of response to this entry, and most of the posts are from young readers who sadly agree with me about their generation." He has written a post on the lack of intelligence in the next generation and then receives an overwhelming response from the very members of that generation, responses he calls "eloquent and reasoned." The very response itself disproves his entire piece and yet... well, I think that speaks for itself.

I would like to ask a question now, one in which I believe there is no answer but I will leave that up to you: From 2000 to 2008, America apparently went through a "dumbing down" period due to our President George W. Bush. I was certainly no fan of President Bush and viewed him, quite frankly, with contempt, but I would like to know what exactly got "dumber." I did not. I continued to read daily and educate myself in multiple areas of interest. My youngest son went from six years old and a basic understanding of the world to 14 and an active interest in politics, science and art. If one would like to discuss current government policies with him, one could. It would not be in-depth but it would suffice for casual conversation. Television, literature and film look to my eyes to be about the same. In fact, one of the movies that Ebert and others have been railing against, Transformers, was released under the current administration, after the supposed dumbing down ended. The point being that casual assumptions based on beliefs and not fact can lead us all down a very divisive and hostile road in which have and have-nots (in this case, intelligence is the desired item of possession) are sectioned off.

As I stated in my review of Homo Sapiens 1900, the idea of a society constantly diluting the intellectual gene pool until stupidity runs rampant may make amusing fodder for a film like Idiocracy but in reality it just doesn't work. The idea makes the assumption that when a societally deemed "stupid" couple has a child that child will never have the intellectual ambition to move beyond his parents level of intellectual curiosity. Abraham Lincoln's father not only refused to learn to read but tried to stop Abe from reading. And yet, few people would consider Abraham Lincoln a stupid man. But how could that be? His father was unintelligent, uneducated. Shouldn't Abe have been as well? No, because biology isn't that simple but there is a danger in thinking it is. A century ago eugenics was looked upon, briefly, as a possibly valid method of insuring a brighter future for the human race. Today there is no danger of falling into a eugenics program again but the same intellectual smugness remains. And I find it sad. I find it sad that a critic I once admired has fallen so far and is spewing such mindless, ageist garbage. When someone decides to exalt belief over fact, to hold on to cherished assumptions over verified data, it becomes difficult to see the reality of the situation: We're not "dumbing down" we're "smarting up" if you'll excuse the awkward phrasing. And we have been, for millennia.

67 comments:

bill r. said...

Take that, Ebert!

I honestly feel like I'm a bit of a hypocrite on this subject. I'm not immune to the kind of thinking that led Ebert to write that post, and there are things about our culture (and by "our" I mean "the world") that make me hang my head in shame.

But all you have to do is look at the big picture, and basic cultural history that everyone knows, to stop that line of thinking. Is Big Brother a more damning cultural obsession than, say, feeding Christians to lions? I'm going to say no.

Basing these arguments on the success of The Hurt Locker is laughable, of couse, as you point out. And as others have said, it's not just young people who are skipping that film. NOBODY is going to see it.

And the idea that the country got dumber under Bush is just another weak, un-reasoned, baseless potshot in the Us vs. Them battles. On another blog, in a post about the Super Bowl before last, this one far (far!) Left guy was pointing out all the Super Bowl commercials that used violence in their humor, and he used this as evidence that our country under Bush was becoming more desensitized to violence. Don't tell the Three Stooges.

Frankly, Ebert has been sliding in this direction for a while now. He's embracing his role as beloved critical icon in all the wrong ways.

Good post, you Left-wing asshole.

Greg said...

Bill - Thanks, you hard-right whackjob!

And the idea that the country got dumber under Bush is just another weak, un-reasoned, baseless potshot in the Us vs. Them battles.

I felt it important to include that because it is simply filled with logical inconsistencies. If we're all dumbing down how do we know we are? Aren't we too dumb now? Why did we vote against his party? Hadn't we been brainwashed into stupidity by that point?

Frankly, Ebert has been sliding in this direction for a while now. He's embracing his role as beloved critical icon in all the wrong ways...

I must sadly agree. I believe the blog may be the worst thing that ever happened to him. When each post gets 300 plus comments it's easy to convince yourself you're a sage.

The Superbowl ad argument is hilarious. I mean, really, violence as entertainment was much, much, MUCH worse in the past. Again, evidence supports that we are moving away from that, not towards it. Public hangings no longer occur in this country. Gladiator battles to the death are no longer fought. Hell, even cock-fighting is illegal. We're not dumber, it's just that too many people make too many assumptions without checking history.

bill r. said...

Ebert also likes to trumpet the idea that his commenters are the smartest commenters in all of the internets. Some guy from WIRED or something said that, so now Ebert drops it into conversation whenever possible.

In a sort of pervese, illogical, but yet somehow more definable way, the strongest evidence that we as a species, or as a country, are getting dumber is the presence of the kind of arguments that claim we're getting dumber. They're so widespread these days, and so asinine, convaluted, biased, self-aggrandizing, and contradictory, that they almost break through to the other side into making a kind of surrealistic sense.

Greg said...

In a sort of pervese, illogical, but yet somehow more definable way, the strongest evidence that we as a species, or as a country, are getting dumber is the presence of the kind of arguments that claim we're getting dumber. They're so widespread these days, and so asinine, convaluted, biased, self-aggrandizing, and contradictory, that they almost break through to the other side into making a kind of surrealistic sense.

That's brilliant. Really, I wish I had thought of that.

And yes, I've read that Wired comment and Ebert does indeed think it speaks to a universal truth. I think many film blogs have intelligent commenters but let's be honest: The guy from Wired has visited all of three and their names are Roger Ebert, Cinematical and /film.

bill r. said...

He might check in with AICN from time to time.

Krauthammer said...

I like Idiocracy and think it's funny, but when you think about its premise for more than 5 minutes it begins to get kinda creepy.

Fox said...

But hey, I thought we were instantly brilliant again since Obama was elected. Right? Oh well... Next theory!

That dumbness post of Ebert's should go next to Bill Maher's recent idiotic post at the Huffington Post. I haven't read Ebert's yet, but I'm guessing it's more nuanced than Maher's.

bill r. said...

Oh, Idiocracy is a funny movie, and perfectly relevant as satire, despite how we all feel on this subject. The premise of the movie is just a set up for the satire, and I don't believe it's necessarily the point. Some version of Idiocracy could be made at any time. The version we have is specific to our time, and I think it's darn good.

Krauthammer said...

The other problem I have with Idiocracy is the idea that in the stupid future we will all be watching acadamy-award winner Ass, C'mon, that's like an Andy Warhol film, it would never be a box office success!

Fox said...

I agree with Bill. Idiocracy is us laughing at ourselves, nothing more. To me, people like Ebert and Maher are coming from a much more sinister place that is indeed creepy. In fact, something tells me that a guy like Maher wouldn't really protest too much against sterilization after seeing the way he looks at his subjects in Religulous.

Fox said...

The other problem I have with Idiocracy is the idea that in the stupid future we will all be watching acadamy-award winner Ass, C'mon, that's like an Andy Warhol film, it would never be a box office success!...

Ha! Very true Krauthammer! Ass would probably be labeled genius but some of today's arthouse types.

Greg said...

I just finally saw Idiocracy recently and thought it was pretty damn funny. I even quoted it to Bill on FB today ("Why come you got no tattoo?"). And I think it definitely pokes fun at today's popular culture. I don't think it's premise is anything more than a way of achieving that.

I still haven't seen Religulous and I really, really, reeeeeeeeally don't want to. So, probably no time soon.

Fox said...

Greg-

Religulous is basically this: "All of you people are stupid and are to blame for everything wrong in this world. Also, I'm awesome and very brilliant. THE END."

Justin Long is friggin hilarious in film. "Don't worry scrote. There are plenty of 'tards out there living really kick ass lives. My first wife was 'tarded. She's a pilot now."

bill r. said...

I even quoted it to Bill on FB today ("Why come you got no tattoo?")...

Damn it. I should have gotten that. I thought you were quoting some goofy song or something.

Greg said...

The narration is the best part for me. I love this early bit, copied from IMDB for accuracy:

... the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them.

Fox said...

"The House of Representin'" is pretty friggin hilarious too.

Are we about to turn Greg's great post into an Idiocracy reference fest????

Honestly, I wish Ebert would read this and respond. But maybe he thinks we are smart enough to have a discussion with.

bill r. said...

My go-to Idiocracy quote:

Welcome to Costco. I love you.

Greg said...

Bill, I love that one too.

Fox, I desire nor will receive any response. I simply wanted to voice my feelings on the subject.

Fox said...

Greg & Bill-

Maya Rudolph is great too. I like the scene between her and Owen Wilson at the doctor's office when she tells him she's a painter. Her delivery is priceless.

Marilyn said...

Using Transformers to make your argument about the current administration is specious because it was, no doubt greenlighted and conceived under the former administration - you idiot! That goes for your cretinous progeny, too.

Actually, I think a case could be made that the educational system got worse in certain ways, particularly under No Child Left Behind. We don't have dumber students, we have dumber curricula (except, of course, where there is money and power). Ebert's reasoning reminded me of Gort scorching the earth because he mistook poor education for devolving brains. And, of course, if children are not intellectually stimulated at home and at school, if they don't get proper nutrition to get them ready to learn, or are unhealthy in any way that impairs their ability to learn (consider the epidemic of asthma, for example, that keeps kids out of school more days than they should be), you might get the idea that their being "dumb" is their inherent fault.

Fox said...

We also note that Ebert gave the first Transformers movie 3 stars.

Fox said...

oops... mean "We should also note..."

Greg said...

Marilyn, I actually thought about the greenlight issue for Transformers but decided the test of dumbness was how many flocked to see it, not when it was made.

My kids attend public school in Montgomery County, MD and I think they receive an excellent education. The eight year old has more homework than I had in college. While teenagers drive me nuts most of the time I'd be hardpressed to say that they or any of their friends were intellectually devolved. Judging from the teens I know, I'd say they are intelligent but young and as such don't make the educational or entertainment choices that we might want them to. Most of them, just like most when I was one, have no desire to see a searing drama. My son is an exception and I realize that. I was an exception too. But if they're dumb now it means they were dumb then and dumb when Ebert was a teen. Which would indicate we're all at about the same level and yet he is arguing that his gen is smarter when studies actually show (see the Flynn effect) each successive generation is smarter than the last.

Marilyn said...

Well, Greg, I don't think much of the Flynn effect, which is based on IQ tests. Those have been discredited for many years for their cultural bias. ACT and SAT tests are going the way of the dinosaur, too. "Standardized" testing is another form of eugenic posturing.

As for your kids' schools, I'm sure they're better because you are involved parents who belong to PTA, right?

Actually, I'm a public school kid, and our hugh baby boom graduating class ran the gamut from inhumanly intelligent to just a bit smarter than a daffodil. There are so many reasons for it, too.

Tommy Salami said...

The most amusing thing is if someone showed Ebert a similar rant by someone his age in 1965, he'd think the person was insane. The younger generation always looks like a bunch of cretins once you get older.

While I do get concerned at the decrease in reading, and the insistence by hardcore gamers that video games make us more intelligent somehow, I don't foresee a coming Dark Age worldwide. The U.S. has always been Puritanical, more respectful of "common sense" than book-learnin', and suspicious of intellectual elites.

Fox said...

I haven't read the Ebert column yet (I should really do that seeing that I keep commenting about it!!!) but does he consider that The Hurt Locker is only playing in 535 theaters?

Fox said...

Marylin & Tommy-

Obviously, the question of education is attributed to a lot, but I think geographic location also plays a role (I think this could be along the lines of where Marilyn mentions a "cultural bias").

Meaning, if I wouldn't have been raised in a huge city (Houston), and if I hadn't moved to a great film city (Austin), then I highly doubt I would be as versed in film as I am. I would guess that Ebert and many of his peers grew up in similarily privileged circumstances. Some people live in towns with two screens.

You could argue that Netflix remedies some of those problems of inaccessiblity, but that still doesn't account for the exposure you have to different cultures, arts, and perspectives when you live in a big city versus a rural area.

Jason Bellamy said...

Greg: Interesting take. I read Ebert's piece when it posted, and I found some truth in parts (American high school graduates don't read as well as they used to; that, I believe, is a fact), but there are some problematic elements. As you noted, his note about the thoughtful comments from people of the generation he criticizes rips apart the premise of the entire piece. Likewise, there's this passage in reference to The Hurt Locker:

... the majority of younger filmgoers are missing this boat. Why is that? They don't care about reviews, perhaps. They also resist a choice that is not in step with their peer group. Having joined the crowd at "Transformers," they're making their plans to see "G. I. Joe." Some may have heard about "The Hurt Locker," but simply lack the nerve to suggest a movie choice that involves a departure from groupthink.

That passage is correct to a degree. Going to G.I. Joe, marketed for a teen audience, isn't going to see a movie, it's sharing a social experience. However, it's funny that Ebert is offended that teens won't ignore their own "groupthink" in order to follow that other crowd -- all those critics he refers to who wrote glowing reviews. There's a contradiction there. In essence, he just doesn't like the group that teens are thinking with. The process of groupthink he believes in, whether he realizes it or not.

Likewise, it's hilarious he dares mention Transformers when, as Fox notes, he praised the first film only to rip apart its sequel for, so far as I can tell, being the exact same thing.

That said, I don't see Ebert arguing that we're biologically dumbing down. I think he's suggesting it's a social change. Whether that's happening or not, who knows. Not to get political here, but I see the "Birthers" controversy and I think: I'm not sure I've ever seen our society dumber. But are we really dumber? Or, in this information age, don't we perhaps just have greater access to the stupidity that has always existed?

Greg said...

Well, Greg, I don't think much of the Flynn effect, which is based on IQ tests. Those have been discredited for many years for their cultural bias.

Marilyn, it also applies to visual abilities, memory, thinking processes and all form of cognitive abilities. It started as a study of I.Q.s yes, but has shown true across many bounderies. And even when reasons given are as simplistic as familiarity with multiple question tests that's still a positive result as working through mq tests becomes a positive cognitive function that aids in other recognition abilities.

Greg said...

Tommy, the tendency of America to go with folksy wisdom or erudition does annoy me greatly at times because I think it perpetuates a myth that people who read and have intelligent conversations are somehow sinister and not to be trusted. I don't like that view and don't agree with it. People like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson weren't making their way based on folksy wisdom but pure erudition and dammit, that's something to be proud of.

Greg said...

That said, I don't see Ebert arguing that we're biologically dumbing down. I think he's suggesting it's a social change.

I agree, I believe he is saying it is a social change that can be corrected. I think what Tommy says is his comment goes to this: it's a social change that every member of the older generation always sees and the younger generation is somehow blind to.

Not to get political here, but I see the "Birthers" controversy and I think: I'm not sure I've ever seen our society dumber. But are we really dumber? Or, in this information age, don't we perhaps just have greater access to the stupidity that has always existed?

I would say, and have many times, that is exactly right. It's not like the birthers make up 150 million of the population. Or the 911 truthers. Or any other wacko fringe group. But they get all the play! It's all we see! Christ, if you went with just what the media highlights you'd have, well, you'd have the view of the left and right that many of us indeed have: That both parties are ruled, made up of and controlled by extremist nutjob crazies.

Marilyn said...

So, what you're saying is that the media are the real idiots - too much ink in their veins, I fancy.

Greg said...

Oh no,no,no. I would never say the media are idiots. Seriously, I wouldn't. They are crafty, clever and know how to get a ratings point. You can't run those organizations the way they do and be dumb.

Marilyn said...

I would and have - often.

Greg said...

Well if you do, then so do I! Actually, I stand by they're crafty bastards. Now if we're talking lack of ethics, that's a different story.

Marilyn said...

No, some of them, especially here in Chicago are just cows. They're too afraid to buck authority, like their cushy jobs and paychecks, and really don't understand ethics, let alone violate it knowingly. Remember Amy Jacobson? She's from my burg.

Marilyn said...

Ah, now I see you cribbed the idea for this entire column from Glenn Kenny. Not too smart, Hilton, not too smart at all.

And what about all that toadying over at Some Came Running? You'd think Kenny had delivered the authorized Bible from the hands of God herself? Sheesh.

Greg said...

Cribbed? About 40 people have posted on this story. And I made one comment, a joke to Bill. How in the hell is that toadying?

Marilyn said...

Don't give me that, Greg. You went along with the crowd. You genuflected at the altar. I've never seen such a load of b.s. flattery in my life.

Greg said...

Are you mistaking my comments for someone else's perhaps. Here was mine:

"I'm good friends with people who like movies that I think are utter garbage."

You're talking about me aren't you Bill? You're talking about my love for SHORT CIRCUIT aren't you? Well, fuck you Bill. Fuck you.

Oh, and, excellent piece. I've not read any Ebert blog entries yet but may read this one to which you refer. Got to start somewhere
.

Yep, that's it. I wrote, "oh, and, excellent piece." That's the over the top flattery to which you refer? I don't get it. Why the accusations?

Mariyn said...

It was not an excellent piece. It was a rehash of the most annoying and self-referential kind. I can't help it; that guy bugs the shit out of me.

Arbogast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

So he bugs you and suddenly I'm guilty of plagiarizing posts? I don't believe he was talking about biology, genetics or William Shockley so I still don't understand where this came from.

Marilyn said...

Just forget it, Greg. I am completely irrational when it comes to that guy. When I saw your name in there, I thought, "Oh no. Not Greg, too!" Delete all my comments if you want. I won't squawk.

Greg said...

I won't delete any comments, it's not that big a deal. I often do posts on topics that many other people have also covered and think it's fine for more than one person to present their point of view on something. That's why I was surprised at being called out like I was doing something deceptive. Anyway, I just don't think I'm in a very good place with blogging right now to be honest. I've got to think some things over and focus on getting a job.

Marilyn said...

I know the feeling. I haven't been able to write much for my blog, leaning on Rod to pull the load. I've never felt this vulnerable about work before.

I'm really sorry I offended you, Greg. It's a joke that wasn't funny.

Greg said...

I'm sorry I took it the wrong way Marilyn. As you are more than aware, I'm quite sensitive these days.

Arbogast said...

I'm really psyched about Halloween.

Greg said...

It's almost here! My trailer has nudity in it. Woo hoo!

Fox said...

I'm totally confused about what just happened - it kind of reminded me of how my mother and father would go from normal to argument mode in like 0-6 seconds, but since you guys have resolved it, that's all that matters.

For the record, Marilyn, Glenn Kenny (and 75% of his commenters)bug me too, but I love you guys for sure.

Fox said...

My trailer has nudity in it....

You live in a trailer????

Fox said...

I'm really psyched about Halloween....

Hey Arbo, will you dress up as the masked dog from The Unborn with me this year???

Or, not.

I can always just do it alone.

Greg said...

No, but if I did, thar'd be nudity in it. But also, there's nudity in my October Trailer for Cinema Styles. It's not safe for work.

Fox said...

thar'dbe nudity in it....

Did you just morph into a pirate for like two seconds?? That was cool.

Rick Olson said...

I love Halloween ...

Fox said...

Well look who decided to show up all of the sudden!!!!

Rick Olson said...

I was always here, Fox, i am always here ... I read this thing right after it was posted and didn't see it blow up the way it did. Then i stepped in it over at FB

I am always here ...

Greg said...

Fox, seriously - Get on Facebook. Stop putting it off.

Rick Olson said...

Fox, I gotta agree with Greg. Get on Facebook. We should do a facebook intervention for him.

Although I will say it's changed the way our little community does business.

Greg said...

It has and that's why Fox should get on board, I don't want a member of the inner circle missing out. For instance, the Halloween comment by Arbo was a reference to his post on Facebook where everything started. It's easier to go off on wild tangents there and keep the blog comment sections cleaner here as a result.

Fox, we all know your real name anyway. Join. Besides, you can see more than just my eyes and nose, you can see my whole face. That's gotta be an incentive right?

Fox said...

Rick & Greg-

I'm on Facebook already (by my Christian name) but I'd never really be on it until 10:00 P.M. each day. Sadly, my job blocks Facebook, so I wouldn't be able to hang with you guys anyways.

I will find y'all regardless, b/c, well, I need to, but I'm just not too into Facebook. Maybe that will change like it did with Greg, but usually I'm trying to catch up with news and such at this time of night. Are you guys ever on past 10:00 CST?

P.S. Rick, every second you are grabbin' ass on Facebook is a second you could be watching The Merchant of Four Seasons!!!

bill r. said...

I like Glenn Kenny...

Stacia said...

I missed this when you originally posted it, but better late than never - I really enjoy this post, and I think that more people need to realize that the "dumbing down" they are so sure is happening is more fiction than actuality, just an attempt to easily and quickly explain away things that are too complicated to dwell on.

And I agree with what you said in the comments, that Ebert's blog may be the worst thing to happen to him. Although I want to like Ebert, his errors in reviews (errors in fact; I don't consider differences of opinion "errors") and his predilection to go on the defensive on his blog really rubs me the wrong way.

Greg said...

Stacia, thanks for the comment. I too want to like Ebert because I watched him from the beginning on PBS' Sneak Previews and I do like his reviews often enough but just as often I unfortunately find them filled with mistakes, as I highlighted in my Heaven's Gate post a few weeks ago. And his blog really has given him the impression that everyone hangs on his every word. Someone needs to tell him that every famous person with a blog need only write "Hello" and receive over a hundred comments. People comment just to be seen or have a "conversation" with Roger but he seems to believe it is because he has become some kind of Mad Prophet of the Internet.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I think that the Bush administration could certainly contribute to a dumbing down of American society.

Leaders lead. Leaders are looked up too. When you are led by someone like Obama, an intelligent, thoughtful and open-minded man, it's going to filter on from the top down. Much like when you have a great manager in a company; his style and attitude filters down.

It's more of an unconsciousness than a dumbing down, I guess-- I'm just thinking out loud here by the way I don't mean to imply anything I say is factual. When people follow along with, and accept things that their leaders do, they can become unaware of the bigger picture. Collectively, opportunities are missed and people feel repressed and confined. When someone like Obama comes in, he is promoting intelligence, he is promoting thinking. It reminds me of an episode of 'The West Wing' when they were telling President Bartlet not to use words people don't understand. But I think it was the Sam Seaborn character who came to the President's defence, saying being a leader and being the President is not about playing to the lowest common denominator, there's nothing wrong with raising the bar.

The more I think about it, I think I'm not talking about dumbing down. But perhaps, people don't shoot for the top, as much. When you see President Bush, or Transformers as the top of the pile, it doesn't inspire people. It doesn't give young minds an incentive to learn.

But when President Obama or Shawshank Redemption are the top of the pile, it inspires people. People are less trapped.

Greg said...

Very well said. The dumbing down is indeed taken from the leaders of the community or country. I think I wanted to say what you said here but didn't achieve it. In pointing out there was no decline my own reading or in the intelligence or i.q.'s of my fellow citizens I was stating that specifics don't confirm a dumbing down but your statement that a "playing to the lowest common denominator" that is promoted by our leaders does very much lend to an air of anti-intellectualism. And I despise anti-intellectualism.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Exactly, Greg. It's like this ghost voice that hovers over people that says 'you are not allowed to show you are clever' or 'you are not allowed to want more from people.'

But of course, that's very wrong. There is nothing wrong with education, or ideas, or wanting more for and from people. What's wrong is pretentiousness, ignorance, etc--- but it's wrong to assume that intelligent people are those things just by default.