Not smart enough to know ‘we are dumb’: Study charts decline in literacy, intellectual curiosity

by WorldTribune Staff, May 28, 2019

“Observe the habits of travelers. In subway cars, on airplanes, and on buses, passengers once passed the time by reading newspapers, magazines, and books. Now they check social media, play video games, and text,” a columnist noted.

The current environment “reflects a less literate, intellectually-curious population. In many ways, it also makes for one,” Daniel J. Flynn wrote for The American Spectator on May 24. “Stupid is the new smart.”

Even citadels of the book glean the wrong message from ‘Fahrenheit 451’, with educators and librarians finding it more as inspiration than cautionary tale.

Flynn cited the research of Norwegians Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg. Their study shows a decline in IQ, a reversal of the Flynn Effect that witnessed scores on intelligence-measuring tests consistently increasing for much of the 20th century.

The study’s numbers “indicate an IQ point drop every three years or so,” Flynn noted, adding “the decline appears precipitous rather than glacial.”

Though the article appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences limits its focus to Norwegian males, it points out similar results occurring within other populations in the industrialized world, Flynn noted.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who have not read a single book in a year has doubled from 8 to 16 percent since Gallup began polling on Americans’ reading habits in 1978.

“Even citadels of the book glean the wrong message from ‘Fahrenheit 451’, with educators and librarians finding it more as inspiration than cautionary tale,” Flynn wrote.

“Schools around the country replace libraries with media centers featuring screens instead of books,” Flynn noted.

The principal of Manhattan’s Life Sciences Secondary School destroyed the books in her school. “They made an announcement that they were getting rid of the books because they were antiquated and outdated, and we should be using new technology,” a teacher told the New York Post in 2017. “I hid some of my books to prevent them being taken.”

The American Library Association (ALA) hosts National Gaming Day, one of the world’s largest video game tournaments, every fall. “The ALA,” Flynn writes, “reasons that ‘libraries are about much more than books.’ To that end, libraries increasingly lend video games, and become much less about books.”

Flynn continued: “Culturally, the regress appears literal. Time travel through the channels and watch reboots of Dynasty and Hawaii Five-O. This week, ABC aired classic episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons reenacted by ‘celebrities’ (a word that surely captures the stupidity zeitgeist better than most). The silver screen, heretofore the more highbrow of the two media, dives more deeply in the shallows. Remakes, sequels, and films based on old comic-book characters represent all but one of last year’s top-grossing films. Hollywood relies on brands rather than originality.”

Flynn continued: “The way people amass knowledge takes on a Cliff Notes quality. We search internet indexes for information devoid of context. We amass facts but not knowledge — and certainly not wisdom. The way we gather information tends to anesthetize rather than stimulate thought and the imagination. Apart from increasingly using passive media, we favor, in ways far more dramatic than in the past, sources that reinforce rather than challenge our beliefs.

“If only we were smarter we would know that we are dumb.”


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