|Part 2 of Have we been "dumbed down"?
School developed in response
to written language
Written language began to develop about 6000 years ago in Mesopotamia,
and perhaps China and Egypt also.
It started as simple pictures of a sheep, person, and river. These pictures
could be used to keep track of how many sheep a farmer had, or create simple
Through the centuries the people added arbitrary symbols for concepts
that didn't have a picture. For example, a picture of a man and woman would
not specify if they were brother and sister, husband and wife, or strangers.
By creating arbitrary symbols to represent concepts, they could clarify
the other symbols. The Egyptians eventually created more than 2000 symbols.
As time went on, they simplified the pictures and made them
smaller. This allowed them to draw the symbols faster, and they could fit
more of them onto a clay tablet or papyrus sheet.
Eventually there were so many symbols, and they were so arbitrary,
that nobody could figure out their meaning simply by looking at them. It
became necessary to teach people how to read and write.
The first schools were very simple; they merely taught reading,
writing, and arithmetic to a few children. Most people had no desire to
learn the written language. There were no books, magazines, or newspapers.
The first "documents" were the equivalent of business transactions and
maps. The written language was considered a business tool, so only a few
people were interested in learning it.
What is the purpose of school?
The people of ancient Iraq left behind thousands of cuneiform tablets,
but almost all of those tablets are the equivalent of business receipts.
They used written language for centuries before it occurred to somebody
that they could use it to record events for the future generations, to
spread news items, to record their opinions, to teach skills, and to write
personal messages to one another. If just one person in ancient Iraq had
realized the potential for written language, we would have descriptions
of life in that era.
You might respond: "to educate students."
The complexity of this issue only becomes apparent when you try to improve
our school system.
When schools first started to develop in the Middle East, there
were no career decisions for children to make. The children acquired the
few skills they needed by helping their parents. School developed only
for a tiny percentage of the population, and only to teach arithmetic and
the written language.
Should schools criticize stupid
Today everybody must be able to
use a written language and arithmetic. In addition, most people need to
learn a skill so that they can get a job.
The elementary schools are teaching written language and arithmetic,
but the public schools are not preparing
children for life in our era. Perhaps the most obvious example is when
we get on an airplane and are told how to use
Children need to learn a lot of information in order to function in
our society today. Who should teach children how to use seat belts, checking
accounts, and the postal service? Who should teach children about purchasing
houses? What should the schools teach, and what should parents teach?
Most children spend a lot of time wondering what to do as an adult.
Should they be a fireman? An astronaut? A welder, scientist, dentist, taxi
driver, dancer, philosopher, Hollywood actor, teacher, or accountant?
It's not possible for children to have a good understanding of the job
opportunities, and they won't have any idea of what they're capable of
doing, or what they enjoy, until they try different activities. Should
our public school system help children make decisions about their career?
Should schools offer at least a minimal job training?
If our public schools are not going to prepare children for society,
why are we forcing children to spend their entire youth in school? Why
not make public school optional, and allow children to select a
school that will offer a practical education?
|I attended public schools in California. I was in elementary school
in the 1960s. During the first years of elementary school, the teachers
would give us very simple activities, such as writing the alphabet, performing
basic arithmetic, and drawing pictures.
Children are submissive, so we were happy to do as the teacher asked.
We would proudly show the teacher our work, and the teacher would smile
and tell us how wonderful we were. The school work was fun and easy, and
we had fun on the playground. However, some children were not having such
||Some children would write the letters of the alphabet and do arithmetic
just like the rest of us, but instead of smiling at their work, the teacher
would scold them for doing a terrible job.
There were also a few children who did not have much fun on
the playground. Instead, the other kids would ignore or torment them.
When I was in sixth grade one of the boys who had been doing lousy in
school behaved in a rebellious manner with the teacher. I can still remember
feeling sad for him, and sad that the teacher has to deal with such a problem.
It occurred to me that the years of criticism was having a profound
effect on him. He was now suffering from low self-esteem. He no longer
had any interest in doing schoolwork because he knew that no matter how
hard he tried, his work would be criticized.
During sixth grade I noticed that the dumb children were separating
from the rest of us and losing interest in school. Some were becoming angry
Schools torment both students and
The current philosophy behind our school systems is that children
should be criticized if they perform "below average", but half the population
is below average! They can't change it, so what good does it do to torment
Who benefits by criticizing stupid people for being stupid? Would you
criticize children who were below the average height for their age group?
Many of the rebellious teenagers join gangs, and later organized
crime. Gangs are sanctuaries where the dumb people can escape from the
criticism and feel good about themselves. If our school system didn't torment
the stupid children, would gangs be so popular?
Stupid people are not our problem
We have a tendency to blame our problems on stupid people,
but not many of the problems we suffer from are really due to "stupidity".
The people who planned and organized the 9/11 attack, the world wars,
and the Apollo moon landing hoax, were not stupid.
The people committing crimes in the financial market are not stupid, either.
The people who are lying to us on television, in magazines, and in newspapers
are not stupid. Not many political leaders in the world are stupid.
I expected the college graduates to be the most receptive to my book
about 9/11 because I assumed that people who earned college degrees were
interested in learning and thinking. However, I discovered that the majority
of people were trying to avoid 9/11, regardless of whether they were intelligent
Take a look at the people who refuse to deal with the 9/11
attack or the Apollo moon landing hoax, or the people in Europe who don't
care that there are laws against investigating the Holocaust. How many
of them are stupid? It seems that most of them are ordinary, and some of
them are intelligent.
Judge people by their value to society,
not their schoolwork
The biggest problems the world suffers from is not the result of stupid
people. It would be more accurate to say that our problems are due to people
with crummy minds. Exactly why their
minds don't work very well is a complex and mysterious issue, but the point
I'm trying to make is that many of these crummy people are intelligent,
and most are ordinary.
If we were to judge people according to their behavior, we
would discover that a lot of intelligent people are psychotic, dishonest,
selfish, self-destructive, and abusive, and a lot of stupid people are
honest and respectable.
Are all people "equal"?
Our school system is causing people to judge one another according to
their ability to memorize information, and whether they have a college
It would be more useful for us to judge a person according to his value
to society. Does the person help make the world a better place,
or does he interfere with our attempts to discuss problems and spread information?
he contribute something of value, or is he detrimental?
I was in sixth grade when I started to wonder why the adults
were torturing the stupid children. Why not teach them something that they
can do for a living? Why destroy their morale? And why are we tormenting
the teachers who have to put up with this situation?
Should schools praise the talented
When I got older I discovered that most people are extremely
sensitive to the issue that some people are stupid. Americans are raised
on the philosophy that all people are "equal",
but what does it mean to be "equal"?
Americans interpret "equal" to mean that people are "identical".
We could say that all people are identical in regards to traffic laws because
each person follows the same laws in the same manner. Nobody has any special
However, we are not identical in
physical or mental qualities. Some people have more physical coordination,
some are stronger, some have better memories, and some are better at math.
Why are so many people resisting this fact? Why won't people accept what
Those of us who are above average height did nothing to become
tall. Likewise, those of us who are above average intelligence were simply
born this way.
There were times in elementary school that I got an A+ on some task
the teacher told us to do (I usually got B's). I remember feeling a bit
embarrassed because I didn't put much effort into it. I wondered what the
other children had done. I felt embarrassed for the other children, not
proud of myself.
If I had put a lot of time and effort into doing something, then I might
enjoy being praised for it, but if I casually do something that comes naturally,
the praise is meaningless, or embarrassing. It's like getting an A+ because
your heart is beating correctly.
How is praising an intelligent child for being intelligent any more
sensible than criticizing a stupid child for being stupid?
What would happen if teachers praised the students who were
than average for their age group? I suspect that some of the
tall children would eventually get tired of the praise, but a few of them
would become conceited and think that they were better than the short children.
Some of the short children might react by becoming bitter, jealous, and
Are schools stimulating feelings
Our school system may be the primary reason that there are so many conceited
adults who think they're better than other people simply because they received
good grades, college degrees, or awards in sports, music, spelling, science,
The stupid people seem to become demoralized by school, but
what happens to the people who are "above average"? They are in the same
predicament as athletes who never win a contest, but always come close.
Humans are arrogant by nature, so it's difficult to say how much of
a person's arrogance is due to the effect of school, and how much is natural,
but we should consider the possibility that school is causing some of the
above-average people to become jealous.
The golfing industry sells a lot of equipment to people who make the
ridiculous assumption that they do poorly in golf because their equipment
is not good enough. These people routinely discard equipment in good working
condition simply to buy some "better" equipment.
Since some people have trouble facing the possibility that their sports
abilities are merely "above average", isn't it possible that some people
also have trouble facing the possibility that their intellectual abilities
are only "above average"?
Some people spend a lot of time trying to convince one another that
they have the best policies for abortion, religion, the bombing of Iraq,
and the 9/11 attack. Isn't it possible that some of this arrogant behavior
is due to a school system that stimulated feelings of jealousy for more
than a decade during their youth?
It is obvious that some people are jealous and resentful of "smart"
people; the question I wonder about is how much of this jealousy is due
to our school system.
The jealousy can be seen in people's remarks. Although they don't use
these exact words, many people have an attitude like this:
||“You think you're better than other people, but you're not. All
of us are equal, but some of us are slower and need more time. Actually,
we're better than you smart snobs because we don't think we're better than
If the dumb people could accept the fact that they are "below
average", they could do something more productive with their time and reduce
the stress they cause themselves and others.
Not smart enough for science? Become
a social scientist!
I never went to college (I lost my interest in school during
high school), but I have met a lot of people who have been to college.
I noticed that the college students who were not smart enough to be scientists
would frequently get into social science.
Some of them ended up in ordinary jobs after they got out of college,
but some of them acquired tremendous influence over our lives because
they become leaders and "experts" in our school system, government, "think
tanks", media, and economy.
Social science is more difficult
than physical science
Physical science is the study of rocks, electricity, animals,
and chemicals. It's very difficult to understand the physical world. Only
a small percentage of the population are actually capable of producing
knowledge about the physical world. A lot of people are capable of conducting
experiments, but very few can actually add knowledge to our database.
Our schools give silly tasks to
Social science is the study of human minds. However, the human mind
is the most complicated object on our planet. If a person is not capable
of understanding chemistry, electricity, genetics, nutrition, hormones,
or animals, how could he possibly understand something even
Our school system treats the study of the human mind as if it is much
simpler than studying chemistry or engineering. This is as absurd and detrimental
as giving an airline pilot's license to people who are failing in their lessons
to drive an automobile.
Social science should be restricted to the students who have demonstrated
an ability to perform exceptionally well in the physical sciences.
Our schools do not provide job training. Rather, they provide
students with simple tasks, such as memorizing historical information,
or writing a report about a fiction book. Students certainly gain something
by performing these tasks, but it seems to be mostly a waste of time. I
think they could learn the same lessons in a much faster manner if we were
to design our schools differently.
When I was in school it seemed to me that the people who were designing
our school system had a different personality than me. Specifically, they
seemed to be the type of people who like playing games and reading fiction.
When I was in elementary school I enjoyed reading fiction books,
such as those by Dr. Seuss and Jules Verne. In seventh grade I read The
Hobbit and enjoyed that, so I decided to read the three books in the
of the Rings series. I started the first book near the end of seventh
grade (or eighth grade, I can't remember).
The book started out interesting, but I noticed that with each new chapter
I was having an increasingly difficult time paying attention. My mind would
wander, and I sometimes had to read a page a second time.
Then there was one particular day that I was reading the book and I
once again noticed that I wasn't paying attention to it, and I thought
to myself, "Why am I wasting my time reading this stupid book?" I put the
book down, turned it back into the school library, and never again bothered
to read a fiction book. I had lost my interest in reading fiction, and
lost my interest in playing games.
|The same thing happened with the television show Star Trek.
When I first started watching it, I thought it was exciting and intelligent.
If I remember correctly, in September they started a new series of shows.
I remember the evening that that new series was starting. I sat in the
chair in front of the television in anticipation of the exciting new season.
But as I watched it, I was thinking to myself "This is so stupid! How did
I enjoy this?"
|I was losing my interest in television shows. I continued to watch
television, but I noticed that I wasn't paying any attention to the dialogue.
I was only watching the pretty girls on the Partridge Family (the
photo is Susan Dey who played in the show), the Brady Bunch, and
a few others.
A few of the comedy shows were amusing, but by the time I was out of
high school I was so disgusted with television that I decided I will never
buy a television set for myself.
|The people who design schools obviously do not have my personality.
The people who design schools seem to enjoy reading fiction, playing games,
and doing "magic squares". All of that was fun in elementary school, but
then I grew up.
By the time I was in high school I wanted to learn something practical
and do something of value, not memorize useless bits of information or
Why not make school a smorgasbord
of job training introductions?
In the 10th grade we learned geometry. I became disgusted with
it after a couple months because it seemed to have almost no practical
value. Besides, it didn't require as much intelligence as the algebra of
ninth grade, so it would have made more sense to teach it before algebra.
Why were we wasting our time learning something so useless?
In the 11th grade we learned trigonometry, which seemed to require even
less intelligence. And then we learned something called "dot products"
and "cross products", which required absolutely
no intelligence and seemed to be completely devoid of practical
I was expecting math classes to become more difficult and useful as
time went on, but they were becoming increasingly easy and worthless. A
person could do cross products even if half his brain was missing.
Years later I discovered that this is the math that computers use, and
why it is so simplistic. Computers cannot think, so they cannot do algebra.
I also discovered that all of the computer-controlled sewing machines,
milling machines, laser cutters, laser printers, and other machinery, are
using this simplistic math.
||A computer-controlled embroidery machine can select different colored
threads and sew intricate designs into clothing using high school-level
I think schools would be more useful if they offered a lot
of short introductions to various jobs. This would allow the students to
get an idea of what they need to learn for different jobs, and that would
help them make decisions on what they enjoy doing, and what they were good
For example, instead of spending a year teaching geometry and giving
useless exercises to students, such as drawing the graph of 3x - 2y, the
school could offer a short course called Introduction to Computer-Controlled
Machinery. The students would learn how to do something useful, such as
how to use geometry to move a computerized sewing needle to do the embroidery
that many children have on their clothing.
They would do something simple, such as making a rectangle.
This would allow the students to determine whether they enjoyed doing this
type of math. If they do, they could go on to more advanced courses and
learn the more advanced math necessary to create a sailboat.
Schools need quality control inspectors
This type of course would teach the same geometry that students are
learning right now, but the difference is that students who took this type
of course would understand the purpose of the math, and they would acquire
a basic understanding of how the computer controlled machines operate.
A school would not be able to provide in-depth training to many jobs,
but they could offer short introductory courses. This would help students
make decisions on what they want to do, and it helps them understand technology.
Every industry has quality control inspectors to make sure
that they are producing quality products. Schools can be thought of as
industries that process children. Schools are one of the biggest industries
in the world, but does any school have a quality control inspector?
Students don't need awards; they
need an education
We should analyze the children that come out of our schools in order
to make decisions on how to improve the school. If we had quality control
inspectors for our school system, they would notice that:
• Most children are graduating from high school with no skills,
and so they must get additional education, or they must get training by
Why don't our school officials care whether the students benefit from their
school? The lack of concern among school officials about whether their
school has any value can make you wonder how many of them are part of a
conspiracy to ruin society by requiring students waste their entire youth
in a worthless school system.
• Many -- or most -- of the college graduates are not getting a job
in the area they were preparing for.
• An incredible amount of money is being spent on our schools.
The people who promote the practice of giving rewards to intelligent
students and criticism to stupid students seem to be the people who do
good in school. They enjoy the praise, and they enjoy feeling special.
However, what we enjoy is not necessarily what is best for us.
Children should be taught to understand
Some people have proposed praising every
student equally, but how is that any more sensible than dispensing candy
to children during lunch? Praising children and giving them candy will
make them happy, but why should our school system do that?
This brings me back to the issue of the purpose of a school system.
I think the goal of a school should be to help children become happy, productive
We should accept the fact that people are different. Instead
of praising the talented students and tormenting the dumb students, we
should help children to understand and accept themselves, and enjoy the
talents that other people have.
If you're not good at music, then enjoy the music from people who are
more talented. If you're not good at computers, than be glad that somebody
can do what you cannot. If you're not good at dentistry, be glad that someone
with more talent is willing to do the work. Enjoy other people rather than
think of yourself as better than them, and rather than be jealous of them.
When I was a teenager I saw a picture in a magazine of stone
walls that had been made in Ireland hundreds of years ago. The thought
that went through my mind was that if every man was as weak as I was, there
wouldn't be any stone walls, and not many rocks above 30 pounds would have
been moved from their position.
I could have chosen to be jealous of people who are stronger than me,
but I have always been thankful that other people have abilities that I