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Forum LockedThe Death of Intellect

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    Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 02:27
Studies have shown that 12 year olds are as smart as ten year olds 30 years ago. With all our access to information nowadays, what has happened to modern culture and educational practice that has so horribly altered the mindset, and the general intellect of the masses? Is the media to blame, education, aiming at the middle all the time? There must be some reason why we seem to be getting dumber..

Or maybe we aren't getting stupider as a whole..I tend to think we are, at least in relation to the crap we watch on tv every day and let our kids watch. Do you agree?


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7759750.stm

Britney more popular than Obama

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley


Spears has been the top search term for seven of the past eight years
Barack Obama will make history by becoming the first black US president, but in the world of internet search he trails the singer, Britney Spears.
Of the billions of searches carried out on the portal, Yahoo.com, over the last year, Mr Obama was third behind Spears and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Mr Obama was, however, the most searched-for politician during 2008.
The subjects of the most sought-after news stories were hurricanes, Caylee and Casey Anthony, and election 2008.
"Every day, people turn to the web to learn more about the world around them," said Yahoo's Web Life editor, Heather Cabot.
"Their searches reveal which news events, personalities and issues made an impact in 2008. This year people were captivated by the historic US presidential election and Olympic triumphs."
     
[Britney Spears] was number one last year for all the wrong reasons, and this year for all the right reasons
Vera Chan
Senior Editor of Yahoo Buzz
"They also closely followed every facet of the economic downturn and enjoyed a little escapism by devouring celebrity gossip and delving into online video games" she added.
Yahoo has not revealed the exact number of searches made, but said it had waded through "billions" of terms.
"2008 was a crazy, volatile, whipsaw year and looking back, when I was doing the research for this, there were so many things I had forgotten, and I remember thinking: 'Wow, all this happened in one year'," said Vera Chan, senior editor of Yahoo Buzz.
'Redemption tales'
For the last seven out of eight years, Britney Spears has been the most popular search term.

Britney Spears is followed wherever she goes by the paparazzi
The singer's troubled private life, which has been played out in full public view, has involved a child custody battle with her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, several stays in rehabilitation centres, trouble with the law, confrontations with the paparazzi, and a new album.
"She was number one last year for all the wrong reasons, and this year for all the right reasons," Ms Chan told the BBC.
"People like redemption tales. You can't have a public meltdown that big and not have people follow you."
"This was the kind of life it would have taken someone 50 years to live and she did it in 27. Welcome to the 21st Century," she added.
Despite Spears's place in search history, Yahoo said 2008 was also President-elect Obama's year. He was the second most searched-for person and the third most searched-for term overall.
     
TOP 10 SEARCHES IN 2008
Britney Spears
World Wrestling Entertainment
Barack Obama
Miley Cyrus
RuneScape
Jessica Alba
Naruto
Lindsay Lohan
Angelina Jolie
American Idol
Source: Yahoo.com
Ms Chan said he had soared up the rankings as more and more Americans became interested in the election and turned to the web for information.
"Barack Obama was the man to know in 2008. Despite the information overload about him, people couldn't get enough," she said.
"The big surprise was to see the intensity of interest over the election. The web provided an online civics education for people trying to find out the difference between a primary and a caucus and what a super-delegate was."
"Another great thing that was heartening to witness was all the searches by people wanting to contribute to political campaigns, and find out how to register to vote and get involved," Ms Chan added.
"Evolution"
Yahoo said it had also created seven other categories to give a better picture of what the nation had been interested in during 2008.

Barack Obama was the second most searched-for person in 2008
These include searches on topics like economics, politicians, news stories, the Olympics, rising celebrities, influential women, and those who have died in the last year.
"There is an evolution going on in how people use the internet and search on it," Ms Chan said.
"Every year it changes slightly and broadens slightly. We still have our guilty pleasures like following celebrities, and our homework like looking at how much is in our bank account, researching holiday sales and shopping online.
"The internet is becoming this nice gateway that reaches into so many aspects of our lives," she added.
But Ms Chan said that while internet traffic was on the rise, people still relied on traditional media as their first port-of-call for news and information.
"People want real information that they can trust from the papers, radio and TV. But they will also go to the internet to find other sources and make comparisons and find other points of view," she explained.
"The web is a great source and this is where information comes together."



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 03:16
Mediocrity rules. Long life to Maddona, the football leage, and the yellow press.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 09:02
But Obama is written about more:
http://www.googlefight.net/?kw1=Obama&kw2=Britney%20Spears

I'm not inclined to believe that people are dumber than they used to be. Its probably a measurement lie.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 09:31
I do happen to believe that those who have access to education today are less capable thinkers than their counterparts from several decades ago. There are a variety of factors that can be blamed for the decline. Aiming for the middle, or even the lowest common denominator in education is only one of the myriad things wrong with our school system. Increasingly we have taken the culture war into our schools, with the result that time that would be spent teaching students how to think critically and constructively is, instead, spent indoctrinating them into one belief system or another. In addition to this, the misplaced emphasis on self-esteem that came to prominence in the late 80s and early 90s played a role, and we are only now seeing the light at the end of what has been a disastrously dark tunnel.
 
The main problem, as I see it, however, is the sheer amount of information that is out there -- and this affects adults as well as children. The democratization of truth -- read relativism -- has run roughshod over any and all barriers intended to safeguard the human intellect. If I wish to hold to one conspiracy theory or another instead of real history, I have but to go to the net, where I will find a variety of sources re. Atlantis, Templar conspiracies, sacred bloodlines, etc. While they may be disproved by a sober historian, I need not listen to him or her. After all, there are a plethora of people telling me that the false information I have been given makes me an expert, which hints at yet another problem.
 
People are encouraged to participate in debates, public life, etc. with no requirement or instruction to inform their intellect and opinions. We glorify those who, while they may may have no idea what they are talking about, are nonetheless willing to participate in discussions concerning topic they simply fail to understand. It's basically the old "A for effort" principle applied in a disastrously innappropriate way. In my own field, one will find that the general public gives similar weight to the theological pronouncements of a bishop as it does to the ignorant postulations of an uninformed lay polemicist -- although this has been limited in academia, except when it serves a polemical purpose, which leads us to the final problem.
 
Academics have begun to concceive of their role as devoted ideologues. Thus, the most base sophistry may be employed, even when the scholar realizes that it is base sophistry, if it achieves some desired end. Intellectual Machiavellianism has begun to crack the facade of credibility that the scholarly world has enjoyed for some time now.
 
Then again, all of this has gone on to one degree or another before, and while I believe that it is more pronounced today than in the past, I may, of course be mistaken. Wink
 
-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 12:40
I think the problem is setting children up for mediocrity - telling them as long as they 'do their best' they'll be fine. There's no ambition from young people, and if there is, its usually limited to making money. Take a look at some of our old leaving cert questions from the 80s - they might as well be beginners stuff nowadays. As long as the bar is lowered people will just work to meet the bar, not exceed it.
 
Though I would ask, were the masses ever really smarter than they are now? I'm not sure, its an interesting question though.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 13:13
Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

I do happen to believe that those who have access to education today are less capable thinkers than their counterparts from several decades ago. There are a variety of factors that can be blamed for the decline. Aiming for the middle, or even the lowest common denominator in education is only one of the myriad things wrong with our school system.
 
Absolutely!
 
Just consider this fact. Jefferson not only was an able politician and thinker, he used differential calculus to design machinery! Confused... He was a brillian mathematician, astronomer, philoopher, etc., besides just a politician Wink.
 
Compare him with a Nixon, Reagan, Bush or Obama... Confused
 
The quality of people is going down. People today don't study Greek, Latin or Classics. Engineers forget Calculus and Physics once they left college. Musicians don't have idea how to compose music. Etc.
 
It is so funny when some people discuss about, let say, genetic, and don't have idea of probability distributions or can't grasp the concept of cline. We are forced to discuss ideas with everybody at the level of kindergarten


Edited by pinguin - 03-Dec-2008 at 13:15
"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2008 at 14:34
@Omar - He may be the most written about, but who is reading about him? One would wager he doesn't feature in the ragmags that most women tend to gorge onto.

Television places a massive emphasis on celebrity and becoming famous. People think now that just because they want to be famous it gives them a right to be, whereas the first celebrities were the inventors, the leaders and the greats, who actually had the talent to become a 'name'.

On college in Ireland, known as Dublin Institute of Technology, or DIT, started allowing students to carry failed repeats, yes repeats into the next year. Because people knew they could fail the repeats and get away with it, that started happening, and DIT became 'Do It Tomorrow' in no time. If the bar is not raised high enough in a third level level institution then the level of education will suffer. In my view, college should be HARD, rock hard, and if you aren't fit for it then don't go, do a level 7 instead of a level 8 course. It's just too easy to scrape by and not better yourself these days.

Pinguin, you have hit on an interesting point. Another study, which I can't find just now, said that Obama's speeches (apparently the best of his generation) were aimed at the level of middle high school language, whereas Washington's speeches were firmly rooted at the college level. You can even see Obama strain at phrasing things below his own level of intellect just so people will understand him. It would be hard not to feel a little weird addressing a nation who can only engage with your words on a level you gave up on years ago. Something is astray.

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The problem is technology makes us lazy. To tell you the truth we are not as hard workers as we you use to like 30 or even 100 years ago
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http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=v2U_KRpz5NY
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Dec-2008 at 07:04

Originally posted by Parnell Parnell wrote:

Though I would ask, were the masses ever really smarter than they are now? I'm not sure, its an interesting question though.

I'd say so. Compare and contrast an 18th century edition of the Spectator - not a big circulation but read (and discussed! - because they read it together) by up to 10% of London's population -  with the language and style of modern media. 

Move forward a little in time and the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder are reading (and writing) complex tracts about Marxist or capitalist theory, great literary works like James Joyce and so on. 

Present day, they're reading sensationalist tabloids and being spoon-fed McFactoids by television media. They are incapable of defining a political agenda or representing their own socioeconomic interests, but just regurgitate a media pablum according to political brand. 

I don't think we are less intelligent - actually I think overall mental capacity has expanded - but the focus has changed. We live in a very data-rich environment, not just the internet and television but even simple functions like travelling involve a much higher exposure to information (in the form of traffic signals, advertising, and so on).

Alot of that data is either function-based (ie traffic signals, computer-related tasks, etc) or just plain garbage (advertising or even simple things like ringtones on cellphones), but it still requires filtering. And that's what I think part of the problem is: information saturation has forced people to focus much more heavily on data processing and simple data manipulation, and consequently much less mental energy is left over for complex, abstract data manipulation. This is why alot of modern conversation on ideas tends to be mere regurgitation, because many people don't manipulate data in an abstract fashion (ie think critically) anymore.



Edited by edgewaters - 08-Dec-2008 at 07:12
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Dec-2008 at 07:17
You bet.
People is not looking for perfection anymore, just mechanical efficiency.
There is too much information but so little that is really worth.
 
Mozart didn't need moogs, spectral analysis or computers to make the best music ever.
DaVinci didn't need to be subscribe to Scientific American to invent the future.
Verne was more inventive that a hundred of sci-fi writer pooled together today.
Archimedes made more top research that a full staff of Nobel prize winners today.
Cervantes wrote better that a hundred of best-selling authors.
Shakespeare wrote dramas equivalent to years of mediocre TV shows.
 
Where have the genious today? Where have they gone?
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Dec-2008 at 08:50

Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Shakespeare wrote dramas equivalent to years of mediocre TV shows.

The funny thing about that is, Shakespeare actually was the equivalent of mediocre television in his time. His plays were written to appeal to the lowest common denominator of Elizabethan society ... 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Dec-2008 at 16:33
I partially agree with some of you regarding the decline of intellect and I do see a vacancy in problem solving skills. For starters, schools appear to have difficulty teaching the truant, unmotivated and ADHD crowd, but it's the lack of discipline that rears its ugly head which makes it difficult to teach. These days, a student sent to the Principal's office is an opportunity to waste time then it is as a source of punishment. Whereas before, we still had the the difficult students but had a way to manage them better(?).
 
 Our capacity for knowledge appears to have increased due to the tremendous wealth of information available to civilians of modern societies. However, I wonder if people struggle like they used to in order to get information. Things like reasoning, problem solving and abstract thinking are all part of one's ability. Are these taught? They are via maturity. Experience will do that; and they are also part of how we think. However, in today's information age is it prevalent at school to foster creative minds based on tired and true methods? Do kids still get enough lessons in logic and reasoning so they can have a strong foundation in problem solving? I'm afraid that we may have a new generation of bright, quick and informed kids who lack a foundation towards persistant endurance for knowledge than they do easy access to pleasure.


Edited by Seko - 08-Dec-2008 at 16:36
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The death of intellect is proved so many times , here in our forum, that any further discussion is needless.

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Ayayay! Our "polar bear" attacked again Confused
"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote khshayathiya Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Mar-2009 at 00:26
I agree that our ill-understood idea of inclusive education, which does not result in improvements for students with poor performance but rather in an overall drop in expectations and henceforth in education, is a major cause for the sheer stupidity we see around.

Perhaps learning things by heart - something widely practiced until recently but now utterly out of favour - does train the brain to function properly...

I'm not so sure, though, that
Quote information saturation has forced people to focus much more heavily on data processing and simple data manipulation, and consequently much less mental energy is left over for complex, abstract data manipulation.


Just think how many words our ancestors had - and used! - for birds, plants, tools etc. that we have a hard time identifying. That points that they too operated in a data-rich environment. The main difference is one of significance and psychologic filtering: where our ancestors saw a myriad of plants, we just see a patch of grass; conversely, where we see for example a vending machine with a dozen types of refreshing drinks, they would have probably seen just a box full of cans. 


PS Sorry if what I just did was necro-posting, but the subject seemed very interesting.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Mar-2009 at 08:44
I was thinking about this the other day. In the late Victorian age the average educated man read ferociously, as there was no TV, the closest thing he had to a tabloid were some of the more sensationalist press.
 
Bear in mind, Dickens etc. wrote legions of books because people would sit down and read maybe 150 pages in a sitting - and they might have two or three sittings a day. That means the average educated man would read a Dickens in two or maybe one day.
 
History writing in those days was all about the length - James Anthony Froude for example wrote 12 volumes (About 600 pages each) on eighty years of British history in the 16th century. So an educated man who read about 150 pages per day would take him around four days to get through a volume, around 48 days to get through 12 (See where I'm going with this?)
 
But we are forgetting the bigger picture, that although for the average educated man reading was a ferocious habit, for the most part 'the people' either couldn't read or had a very rudimentary ability to. For someone who worked 12-18 hours a day in a hellhole factory, with terrible working conditions, little pay, and about 15 diseased kids in an unsanitary little hovel somewhere in the East end of London, reading James Anthony Froudes 'History of England from Wolsey to the Spanish Armada' seems a bit alien.
 
I don't think the actual intelligence of the masses has really changed. I just think as a whole, our educated classes read less, our uneducated classes read more, but read absolute claptrash, and overall we're meeting closer in the middle than we might like to acknowledge.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote truth of the matter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Mar-2009 at 23:20
very good question. I regret to say for a big part yeah, we as a culture have "dumbed down". I will say first though. There is a percentage( i hope 35-45%) of people who are of intellect criteria. Many who might frequent this website...many more I hope do. Anyway what the media show and whats on the main abc cbs fox nbc(some better than others) is tended or maybe dumb down people. I know people say why? I ask the same question.It to say, isn't like there is no education or good shows on t.v. There are good shows. Yet on the majority, the shows that are seen reaaly doesn't educate americans as it should be. It's like amusement is overriding education. To me when one can distract the audiance in amusement, the actions unknowingly done are never seen. That to say people watching american idol, seeing if britney spears dropped one of her kids or let them drive her $90,000 BMW or some unintellectual drivel as that. The fault is if the parents are not educating the youth enough then most likely they are a big percentage of americans who are not using their intellect in ways to help mankind or at least their neighbor. I could go on about how education,media, t.v.,propaganda is all a cloud over truth and pure knowledge, but i don't have the time or space. I just hope people wis up and look to educate themselves with things that involve the people that effect their lives. I don't think britney, paris hilton or american idol are going to make the decisions that will dictate the lives of the american people.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Mar-2009 at 11:23
I'd agree with that to some extent, the media plays a big part. There is a worrying fusion of entertainment and information nowadays.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Apr-2009 at 08:06
There's one thing that you guys have not taken into account: the percentage of literate and educated people.
100 years ago, or 70 years ago, most people didn't even go to school. Many could possible read, write, and do sums, but they have no idea of science, history, geography, and what goes on in any town or village more than 100 km away.
The educated elite, however, had all the privelages of being a selected minority. Most of them came from affluent families that could allow them the time and resources in engage in their intellectual pursuits.

Today, everyone goes to school and everyone learns about maths, science, history, and geography. Most probably, the level of "general knowledge" has improved; yet the percentage of "intellectuals" is probably the same as it was 100 years ago.

The difference is: 100 years ago almost ALL educated people were intellectually developed.
today, 10% of educated people are intellectually developed.

Nevertheless, 100 years ago probably only 10% of the population were educated.

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