In my roommate Hazen’s latest blog posting, he makes a great point about how richer nations have essentially coddled their children so much throughout their education-based lives that they end up not learning anything at all.
Case in point: in January 2001, George W. Bush passed a bill called the “No Child Left Behind Act” which was originally intended to help children across the country by ensuring that every child was able to read by the end of grade 3. Of course, this was also assuming that less teachers would quit; in fact it made the assumption that more teachers would be brought on to cope with the increased demand for a teacher’s time. I don’t think I even have to say it, but the number of positions dropped quite significantly.
A report released in June of 2002 by Ed Fuller (a PhD with the State Board of Educator Certifcation in Texas) indicates that the state of Texas alone was short between 10 and 20 percent of the required number of teachers. Now think about this for a second, this report is saying that they are short 45,000 teachers, in the home state of the man who signed this very bill.
How are teachers supposed to ensure that all of these children are all at the same level when they already have an average of 15% more children than they optimally should? Unfortunately, it’s a simple answer to a simple question: they lower the bar.
Instead of being able to embrace the spirit of the bill and bring the already-too-high number of uneducated children down, they end up setting the bar at the lowest common denominator so that they’ve at least got everyone on the same page. Worryingly, this is putting the smartest children in the class at risk for boredom and stunted development.
What do I mean by that? After 24 (well, in less than two weeks) years of living and breathing, I will finally quit being modest and accept the fact that I was (or rather, am) bright. Going through elementary and junior high was difficult for me, because it seemed like I was being punished for being smart. I can recall many occasions where I would be in Ms. Faulkner’s grade 8 and 9 science class, asking why a certain reaction would take place between certain metals, and all too often, I would be told that the answer would be too confusing for most people.
I’m sorry, I was under the impression that we came to school to learn, or to learn how to learn. If the answer is too confusing, either the people I’m sharing a classroom with can figure it out for themselves, or they can ignore the response altogether. Why should I, as someone who is coming to school to learn be denied that very right. In fact, shouldn’t teachers be encouraging students to ask questions? I mean, if in every class we’re at least partially graded on our participation, why would we be penalized for it?
As Hazen remarks in his article, I too am absolutely sick of the stupid being coddled. Whether it be kids, teenagers, adults, or seniors; in this day and age, where information is so readily available to anyone and everyone, why is stupidity still worn as a badge of honor?
10 years ago, when the words “computer” and “internet” were just barely starting to enter the vocabulary of the general public, not knowing how to open a zipped attachment was acceptable. These were all new technologies and they penetrated the market at a furious pace so not being able to keep up with all the latest terminology was to be expected.
My problem is that, here we are, 10 years later, and these same people who have been using their computer since AOL broke on to the scene are still asking how to open zipped attachments, and every time you try and educate them (“Here Bob, you save the attachment in your My Documents folder, you open your My Documents folder by clicking Start -> My Documents, you right-click the attachment, and finally you click “Extract here…”) you will inevitably be verbally slapped with the famous “WHOA-WHOA-WHOA!!! I am not good with computers, you can’t expect me to remember all that, do you?” as a shit eating grin slowly creeps on to their face which is just begging to be slapped off.
So I’ve given you 4 instructions, and you don’t have either A) the brain power to remember 4 simple steps; or B) the brain power to think “Hey, this is rather complicated, maybe I should write this down.” I can only imagine what must happen to these people when they’re invited out for dinner to a friend’s house that doesn’t live down the street. “Get to Main Street, take a left on Park Drive, take a right on Tree Avenue, then it’s a left on Sunview Street, and then look for—” “WHOA WHOA WHOA, you can’t expect me to remember all of that, do you? Looks like we won’t be able to make it after all, since the directions are just too complicated. Thank your wife for the invitation though!”
People like this are the reason that the geeks and nerds of the IT world are getting burnt out. It’s not the rapid pace at which technology moves; we embrace it. We (generally) love the fact that companies are using the spirit of competition to continually improve themselves (or at the very least, their products) and we love getting to play with these new gadgets. Those gadgets aren’t the reason that you speak to a new helpdesk technician every time you call, even if your helpdesk is only 3 people: it’s the stupid users.
The people who after years of repeat calls to IT refuse to learn a few simple steps, that seemingly everyone else around them was able to master in a few minutes, are the reason that the turnover rate in the computer world is so high. We get to see stupidity on a mass-scale day after day and it kills us. Perhaps its egoism that makes us compare our love of learning (yes, most techs chomp at the bit to learn new things; it’s why we’re good at what we do) to society’s apparent hate of it, but I think most of us (or at least, I) cannot understand how people would not want to learn something.
At any rate, these people should be punished. Unfortunately for society as whole, “survival of the fittest” has all but been outlawed, and every concession has been made to these plights on society while sacrificing the few of us left that actually care about being smarter than the average fence post. We’re being held back in school, and even to some extent at work, thanks to the revolving door of stupidity that seems to have been installed at the door of our culture.
The people who want to learn can’t, and to a certain extent feel down as they’re being denied the most basic pleasure: knowledge. The people who don’t want to learn don’t because they believe that rather than learning something new, they can just have someone else do whatever problem needs solving at the moment. They’re as happy as a pig in shit because laziness has become a way of life. And everyone everywhere suffers as the world plunges a little closer into the darkness of irrational stupidity.
But I guess what they say is true: ignorance is bliss.