Progress Toward Terminal Dumbness
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States [that] has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov
When a young man of my acquaintance confessed to me, some time ago, that he didn’t like to think, it shocked me to the core. Was this dreadful handicap the result of having slid too far down the slope of dumbing down, by way of progressive education in the public schools? Was it a bad case of chronic mental laziness? Whatever the cause, the condition of his mind was tantamount to having had a lobotomy. A “side effect” in either case is being docile and compliant. (Ready for reprogramming?)
The dumbing handicap interferes with the perception of the world, it adversely affects self-confidence, and it reduces the ability to act effectively in whatever needed or desired in life. The ability to think clearly was once an aim of public schooling. The virtual abandonment of that goal via “progressive” education cannot be considered a form of “progress” assessed as improvement of intellect and character in each student. But “Progressives” seem not to care for education that nourishes the mind. They prefer education that brings about a public that is compliant with their agenda, even if this damages the students’ ability to think and act according to their natural gifts and potentials. “Change,” their mantra for progress, is a reequirement in everything that doesn’t accord with their agenda.
George Santayana had something to say about progressive change in 1947 that is worth repeating: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual ... In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience.”
Some will object that such “conservative” thinking blocks any movement toward progress (the definition of which is constantly kept vague). But the alleged “rigidity” ascribed to conservatives by liberals is not like the inflexibility of a straightjacket that restricts movement but like the firmness of a backbone supporting the body, making movement possible.
It needs to be asked, then, in what direction we are being led by Progressives, and with accelerating velocity? From where I stand, after six decades or more of observing what has been happening in America, I see an increasing number of people thinking, speaking, and living in their diminished little worlds, having retreated or been restricted from the freer, fuller, more functional life that could be theirs. This is progress downward toward degradation, not improvement of life in America.
I submit that Americans with a wider stretch of life than a few decades (one foot on the past and one on the present), can attest that in times past there was a generally higher level of smarts and civility in America, measured in terms of practical knowledge and friendlier relations among people. How that could be possible without smartphones and social media can only be puzzling to the millions whose faces and eyes are constantly buried in those devices instead of interacting with the actual world and the real people around them.
An ageless attitude centered on love of human life and love of truth – the absence of which degrades leadership and governance – has faded. Exceptions aside, what evidence is there from their actions that our government officials love human life and truth? What has become of the minds of a majority of our leaders? Should we not wonder what the effect of educational dumbing has been in the formation of their intellect and character?
For those whom dumbing has not serously weakened the brain and dulled the senses, it should be obvious that many of our government heavyweights have chosen to turn their backs on the people and on America’s supreme law of the land. The Constitution, let it never be forgotten, is the product of men who acted on behalf of Americans sick and tired of oppressive government and who, trusting the Creator, were willing to sacrifice and fought for their and our liberation.
Again from where I stand, I can report that serious attention to the actual world was prevalent in times past, manifest in greater respect for objective knowledge. Objectivity, to the maximum extent humanly possible, was a tenet of science and of higher education, recognized by our leaders as a prime asset for improving and advancing the quality of life for all Americans. Objectivity was a tenet of the liberal arts before colleges got occupied by benighted administrators who cared less for advancing knowledge and culture and cared more for pushing the agenda of the political Left. What matter if doing so helped destroy the country? What matter if America be turned over to global dictators obsessed with changing the world into a habitat for happy zombies?
Leaders of whatever stripe and IQ who accept a demented agenda like “the Great Reset” show a serious lack of smarts. What is their excuse? What is their problem? Is the world their problem or is it an acute case of dumbness disorder?
H. L. Mencken had something to say about terminal dumbing, back in 1920, that makes me wonder if he was joking: “As democracy is perfected,” he said, “the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
It must remain an open question whether the degree of stupidity apparent in any holder of the office of president is in fact a high measure of cunning.
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