As very few of my preferred bloggers have written fresh stuff since last night, my first-cup-of-coffee reading was a link on facebook, about the dumbing-down of America. (I can't face "real news" until I have a little caffeine under my belt....)
There's no doubt in the world -- my poor country is embracing stupidity. From right, left and center, unworkable "solutions" that could be picked apart by an intelligent third-grader bounce around the halls of government. Respected purveyors of news and the opinions thereon are delivering products written by people who can't form a grammatical sentence, or pronounce all the words properly when they get on-camera. Some of our more conservative and religion-saturated states are passing laws of jaw-dropping idiocy. Getting rid of extreme bias through presenting only one side of a debatable subject has led to the idea that all sides of every argument deserve representation, no matter how brainless -- in our SCHOOL-BOOKS.
But it comes to my attention, via that article I was reading (and which I couldn't finish, it was such a piece of manipulation), that some of the "facts" about what my countrymen think have been crafted by questionnaire-designers very much like the guy who wrote the joke "so when did you stop beating your wife?"
The article made an example of the question, do people "consider vaccinations to be safe and effective." Any half-way intelligent person answering such a question can see three major problems with it: vaccinations? which ones? ... effective, undoubtedly for SOME of them ... but SAFE? Safe to give a newborn something that was tested on a much older animal? Yes, measles vaccinations, given at a reasonable age, can save countless lives, but HPV's record is new and sketchy at this point.... So is it dumb to express a modicum of doubt on the "safety and effectiveness of vaccines"? Expressed in this kind of terminology, I don't think so.
They also mentioned evolution and the age of the earth. Again, depending on how the questionnaire framed the queries, "how certain are you that the earth is 4.5 billion years old" could sound like a trick question. But phrase it, "choose one: a) the earth is 4.5 thousand years old, or b) the earth is 4.5 billion years old" and you might get an answer that's more consistent with reason.
Just as it's possible to design a nutrition study that will prove anything you want, it's also possible to get any answer you want to a query into "intelligence." There used to be literacy tests for voting, in our southern states, which only a rare, canny individual could possibly answer -- certainly not the under-educated crackers (to which they were NOT given) OR the earnestly-trying black people there (who were the intended targets). If you WANT to make the general population look dumb, it's going to be pretty easy, considering that almost half of them are below average already. ;-)
You have to remember, people can't know something they haven't been taught (or self-taught). If all the authorities in a child's life bombard them with UNtruths, half-truths, and unrealistic opinions, there's every reason to believe that the child's thinking-processes will be disabled. ... APPALLING, but it explains a lot, doesn't it?