Thursday, December 15, 2011
Are we getting smarter or dumber?
Every year around the holidays we sit around the kitchen table and compare yesteryear to today. My daughter, who's an elementary schoolteacher, doesn't think the children of today are as smart as those of her era. I think that she's basing her opinion on what she sees and not on a scientific study. She might just be seeing something where the fault lies with the curriculum and not the students themselves. Several years ago, I showed my daughter an article that showed the lesson plans of a one-room school where all grades were taught at the same time. The year was in the late 1800s where the students were routinely taught algebra and calculus. We both looked that the problems and admitted that we probably couldn't pass the tests they did.
College dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and Bob Gates will continue to amaze me, and I will always wonder how much further they might have gone if they completed their education. There is a legitimate argument that it a decree does not always equate to intelligence. I do believe good study habits, intelligence, and work ethics are in a way inherited. The four people I mentioned did not grow up in poverty or to a family that didn't believe in education.
I happen to think I'm smarter today than I was years ago because I'm more inquisitive. I'm not a genius, but I’m more willing to self educate myself than I was several years ago. I used to study for the test, and then I would forget about the subject until a needed it again. I took that same mindset to the workplace and became complacent. It wasn't until we started to computerize everything when I decided I needed to change if I was going keep my job. My fellow old timers were fighting the new system tooth and nail, but I saw the younger workers taking to it and loving it. I saw where computers could make things easier for me and my work mates. I decided to study the system and got to where I could work with the programmers to make the computers work for our specific needs since they were originally set up to monitor basic operations. Was that a form of intelligence or a lazy person wanting to make things easier?
I have seen teenagers’ text message at 100 miles an hour and believe me that takes brainpower. I'm guessing you could put that same person at McDonald's, and they would have trouble giving you correct change. I've seen people my age who knew practically everything about their job, but the outside world was a puzzle to them. I've also seen where prisoners have created an elaborate scheme to code their messages and have created a business model that rival our Fortune 500. It that a quest for survival or a form of intelligence?I've always thought that intelligence was based on how quickly a person could grasp what was taught to them. I changed my mind when I started learning how some intelligent tests were based on familiarity with a subject rather than the ability to grasp. I remember reading about some employment and advancement tests that were unfair to some minorities because they were unfamiliar with the environment that the questions were based on.
I've read stories where the military had to rewrite their manuals (dumb it down) because the new recruits were having a hard time learning how to use the sophisticated weaponry. Is that the fault of the recruits or our education system?
This morning I heard that the reason for our lack of intelligence today is that our children are being analyzed as being hyperactive rather than being diagnosed as being a normal boy who occasionally goes overboard The boy is then given Ritalin, which is then replaced with another drug as he progresses through his teen-age years. The author also said that the strong male role model is not like it once was. I don't agree or disagree with that synopsis because I can't relate to it. Fortunately, my children were not under medication, but we would not have looked for subnormal behavior patterns because we didn't know what to look for. In my day the norm was, "if was good enough for me then you'll get the same type of parenting." It's funny how being grandparents change our mind when it comes to our grandchildren.
I won't watch "Are you smarter than a fifth grader" because I don't want to know.