Educating The Masses

It’s a rare and nationally detrimental occurrence when the Republican Party decides to implement a government shutdown. It’s rarer still that, even with this country’s near brush with debt default and the possibility of conflict with Syria, the media and the public consider Miley Cyrus’s performance at the 2013 VMAs to be the more significant event.

What’s alarming is the reality that American adults trail behind upwards of ten other countries, including Japan, Finland and Australia in literacy, math and computer skills, according to a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In retrospect, American intelligence and common sense have dwindled, not only in light of recent events, but in the social behavior that becomes apparent in day to day activities — showcased through the news and over the internet.

Celebrity worship is a higher priority than the election of key Senatorial and House representatives, which affirms one staggering reality: most Americans lack common sense and intelligence.

Okay, so this isn’t representative of the general populace; a few black sheep in the flock grace the herd with enough supplementary common sense to keep the country from making Brad Pitt the next president of the United States.

Dumbfounding would be the appropriate term to describe the extent that the American public earnestly follows MTVs latest reality television series or a famous Hollywood star in their Twitter feed.

Intellectual giants such as Neil deGrasse Tyson are nowhere to be seen in the public eye, making way for Justin Bieber or Nicki Minaj as role models for a generation. Ridiculous.

The public may even be considered misinformed (or perhaps knowledge-deficient) as evidenced by news outlets taking to the streets to ask Americans who the sixteenth president of the United States was or what the names of each body of the legislature are within our government.

The end result of these streetside polls? A chuckle from the viewer as the questioner racks his or her mind for information long since neglected as the most recent iteration of Apple’s iPhone fills his or her thoughts.

Material possessions also hold Americans in a vice. We are led to believe that having the newest technology enriches our lives at the hefty cost of utilizing misinformed decision-making.

New is better, old is obsolete and therefore useless. Hundreds of dollars may be spent upgrading to a new phone or tablet when the prior was just as capable of performing every mundane task conceivable. When we buy an iPad for the sake of upgrading, both our wallets and common sense take a blow.

This below-average thinking walks hand-in-hand with a lower educational standard. From the moment a child is placed in elementary school, the shortcomings that ultimately lead to American society’s current state begin.

Parents also maintain responsibility in failing to read to their children, instead putting them in a room with a video game system or focusing on athletic involvement rather than maintaining a strict emphasis on school work.

The system is relatively easy-going on students as opposed to those in other nations, where a rigorous set of coursework is given to children and the expectancy to work outside of school is much higher. It is this lack of centralizing education that places the United States where it stands on the OECD survey.

The only remedy is for Americans to prioritize being well-informed on the issues that matter over making uninformed purchases, and truly value the intelligence we are all capable of exercising.

 

Abel Saldana is a first-year English major. He can be reached at abelrs@uci.edu