People have commented that all they read here are complaints about the things that are wrong with society, the education system, politics, current entertainment and even the media. What is the sense of writing about the things that are going right?
It reminds me of what the character Jim said in Twain’s novel, “Huckleberry Finn” when Huck asked him why he only predicted bad luck in someone’s future. Jim’s answer was that there was no point in knowing about good things that are coming since no one would ever want to change them.
Who would want to change what is being done correctly? Who even needs to think about what is right with society, education, politics, entertainment or the media? We need to think about things that need changed.
I was once part of a discussion that was trying to find to how to improve things in a school. One of the suggestions was to reward kids for doing what they were supposed to do. My comment was that I thought it silly to reward people for doing what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. That opinion brought a somewhat stunned silence from the others in the group, as though I had suggested something idiotic. That’s when I remembered something H.L. Mencken had either said or written a couple generations earlier, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
Over the past few months I have been convinced that a lot of things happen because we give too much credit to the intelligence of the American people. Very simply said, as a former colleague, biology teacher and son of an outstanding shop teacher told it, “reverse evolution has taken over.”
Just for example look at how many people believe that Daylight Saving Time provides more hours of daylight. People who should know better forget that no matter what time is shown on clocks, there are the same number of hours of daylight and darkness. Changing the time on clocks has absolutely nothing to do with that.
And no one ever questions the statement about a new television series after its first episode that it is “the most popular one on television.” How can anything be the most popular a day after it was first aired? And millions seem to believe without a question that a television show that takes place half way around the world is being shown “live.” Combine that with other so-called reality shows that compress seven 24-hour days into one hour. Why do people believe that these “reality” shows are not as scripted as the dramas or soap operas they know are not real?
OK, so I know that all “theatre” requires us to suspend our disbelief to be entertained. But why do so many people seem to believe that what they are seeing is real? But so much for entertainment.
A lot of people have also been told, and now seem to believe, that the more advanced our education systems become, the better the children will be taught. Think about this for a minute. The people who are now using or trying to use this modern technology were taught, almost exclusively, in rooms without computers, the internet or “smartboards.” They learned what they know in classrooms with chalkboards, desks, books, overhead projectors and maybe an occasional film projector. All were about as low tech as any tools could be. And yet they learned, and they learned to adapt to a tech world they could not have imagined as teenagers 20 years ago. But now kids, parents, teachers and administrators are being led to believe that classrooms must have high tech “tools” because the kids will need to know how to use them in the world.
As Joe Biden put it, “Baloney!” Kids learn how to be auto mechanics, plumbers, bricklayers, engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and teachers not by watching internet videos on computer screens or “smartboards,” but by developing the curiosity to learn how an engine works, how a building gets built, how an argument is built, how tax laws apply, or how kids learn. They learn those things by doing them. Unless they are encouraged to be curious, unless they are shown how much there is to learn and how to go about learning it, our schools and their “classrooms of the future” will be useless. And the more we replace that curiosity with slick shows and “gehaws” that replace thinking skills with pat answers, the more we deprive children of their natural desire to learn.
And so we have about 35 percent of our population that believes anything they see or hear on television. People who believe just about anything if it comes from the internet or from a Twitter feed. People who would rather cast a vote based on candidates’ political party rather than their qualifications, background, honesty or integrity. We should not be surprised that candidates who have not been doing their job get re-elected because their political party is in the majority; when the first question a voter asks of incumbents is not, “Have they been doing their job?” but rather, “Is he or she a Republican or Democrat?”
Frankly, I agree with Mencken and see little hope for improvement so long as people would rather believe pretty propaganda than unvarnished truth.