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The dumbing of America or, "The empire strikes out"

The SAT recently discussed dropping the vocabulary section. Educational experts promote editing classic books in schools to alter the vocabulary so that it matches the "age appropriate" level of mastery they assign to the student's grade level. 


Words now considered offensive are changed rather than used to spark discussion of changing usage in cultures over time e.g. Huck Finn has the "N" word deleted when referring to his friend and companion, Jim. 
Newspapers restrict vocabulary to a grade school level. 
Media panders to those with a short attention span and peddles emotion uninformed by logic or the pursuit of truth. 

Shouldn't vocabulary be viewed as a technology, the transistors, resistors, diodes etc. in the circuit boards of thought? Can nuances in understanding be communicated without multiple synonyms each having slightly different connotations? 


This meetup might examine the long term effect of this alarming trend on the economics, politics, educational standards, ability to innovate, and social mobility in our society. 


We might talk about whether the ability to think effectively can exist without the words to describe our thought processes. 


We might even ask, " What are we thinking to allow these trends to go on unopposed." Or... 


We might just get some caffeinated beverage at Starbucks and play Candy Crush on our smart phones because we've abandoned the tools we needed to say anything interesting to each other. Would that perhaps be ahead of our time? I think not. What does lie ahead of us if this continues?

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  • Charlotte W.

    Good group... love to have a redo...much more of this topic not discussed

    April 19, 2014

  • Ginger

    Sorry to miss this, plumbing problems, lucky me. Happy Easter to all.

    April 19, 2014

  • Angel

    Sorry I'm not be able to make this one. Was very much looking forward to it, especially after watching the dialogue here in the comments.

    April 19, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Seems to me that a thriving civilization would have a net gain in the number of words in its lexicon, what with new tech, etc. So is it just that educational experts are out of touch? Is it true that those who can, do, and those who can't, dumb down teaching? Is there a dialectic between the NY Times crossword puzzle and texting? And why don't they teach script in school any more? Yes, I am politically incorrect.

    1 · April 12, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Of course. But there is nothing quite like a handwritten love letter. (I will save the rest of this for Saturday's meetup!)

      April 15, 2014

    • Lynn

      Alrighty then

      April 15, 2014

  • pam b.

    I've been teaching fifth-grade for many years, and have witnessed the "dumbing down" of public Education. As a result, I volunteered to teach the Gifted & Talented, instead of taking a "spelling group". All of you will be inspired by the gifted ones that I teach! Challenged with engineering projects; controversial novels; etymology; mythology and the modern world, and more student generated projects, such as our last project; how music reflects the society in which it was created. We must understand the location; politics of the time; possible reasons for such changes that have a domino effect. We began with the Harlem Renaissance. The best part of the project was that I learned from my students just as much as I brought to the table!

    April 13, 2014

    • Lynn

      Dadaism in all its forms was explicitly a reaction to WWI, at least in part. Futurism (capital F) may have been similar but it's less clear because they claimed to embrace the violence and chaos in fact. I have certainly heard more than my share of (mostly) more recent music that easily fits your description. Here are some examples:

      Frédéric Talgorn - Intolerance:

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      Carl Davis - Reckoning:

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      Signal Août 42 - Century of Hate:

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      Mordechaj Gebirtig - Undzer shtetl brennt:

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      Grenzkommando - Schiessbefehl:

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      April 14, 2014

    • Lynn

      The following is an East German military song whose title translates to "Our Armored Division":

      https://www.youtube.co...­

      It is not dissonant, but grimly cheerful in a way. One stanza reads, more or less:

      "There, where the call to arms suddenly breaks out,
      The hard day will show on every face,
      We will brim over with joy,
      The cry 'Hurrah!' will ring throughout the land"

      I am imagining this song playing as an East German armored division races to the west and the world rapidly slips out of the hands of its leaders into a state of general thermonuclear war.

      April 14, 2014

  • Lee D.

    How can individuals push back against systemic social trends that appear to threaten the quality of the future? Are there concrete steps to take? I'd like to hear any ideas we could generate.

    April 9, 2014

    • Lee D.

      I'm not certain that I understand where you're heading with this. Are you leaning towards some sort of Carbon/Silicon mind merge? For my part, I wouldn't consider such a thing until after the Singularity, and then our AI progeny might just be smart enough to object!

      April 14, 2014

    • Lynn

      I'm not a Singularitarian actually. I think it's based too much on wishful thinking and questionable interpretation of data / forecasting. But I would call myself a transhumanist for certain.

      April 14, 2014

  • Penni G.

    While completing my degree in 2012, I was astonished at the writing and vocabulary level of my classmates.The courses were on line and we shared writing assignments on a weekly basis in a sort of "chat room". Now I work at an agency where writing case notes is an essential skill. My employers are finding it nearly impossible to locate workers who can compose progress notes in a professional manner using appropriate vocabulary and grammar. It seems that the "dumbing of America" has already happened. How do we reverse it, or even make people aware that it has happened? What's really terrifying is that I don't really think anyone cares. It seems that "dumb" is "in" these days.

    April 14, 2014

  • Penni G.

    Sorry I can't go this Saturday. I would love to join the group another day. I can't wait to meet and "discuss" with everyone.

    April 14, 2014

  • Charlotte W.

    Could be a riveting discussion if people are totally honest...doubt that will happen...politically correct gets in the way..times & people & words have changed

    April 9, 2014

    • Lee D.

      You're sounding like the expression "politically correct" means something like, "The truth?You can't stand the truth." I look forward to being tested!

      April 9, 2014

  • Charlotte W.

    Dumbing down of America.

    WHY is this happening ....could take the entire meeting if we are all politically correct..

    1 · April 6, 2014

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