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 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 1
The Dumbing Down Of AmericaPage 1 of 4    (1, 2, 3, 4)
What are the reasons for the lower I.Q. scores in America today vs. 20-50 years ago?
Have we become a dependent society that cannot think clearly because of chemicals and toxins in our food, water, air, and medicine? Are we addicted to the media and what they choose to tell us? Does it take Americans with a higher I.Q. to piece this all together and understand why? Lets please discuss the science of this problem; any and all input is welcomed.
 Tall2012
Joined: 7/13/2009
Msg: 2
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 7:30:00 AM
One could argue that IQ tests only test the ability of the individual to complete the kind of questions you get in standard IQ tests and these tests dont actually reflect the true intelligence of the individual ?
 whitegold765
Joined: 12/26/2007
Msg: 3
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 8:01:45 AM


Lets please discuss the science of this problem; any and all input is welcomed.

If you want to do it scientifically you can't go past the first point. You've stated a problem, and are looking for a solution.

But is there really a problem?

The answer is no. Over the last 20 - 50 years, IQs have steadily RISEN, not fallen. It's called the Flynn Effect.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

Next time you want to discuss an issue you might want to check your assumptions first, to make sure you're not simply making up a load of nonsense.
 stargazer1000
Joined: 1/16/2008
Msg: 4
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 8:55:51 AM

What are the reasons for the lower I.Q. scores in America today vs. 20-50 years ago?


Citation?

Thankfully, of course, I live in Canada!
 lateā„¢
Joined: 2/1/2010
Msg: 5
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 9:36:38 AM
What are the reasons for the lower I.Q. scores in America today vs. 20-50 years ago?

It's unfortunate that this misinformation was part of the OP, however...

The Dumbing Down Of America


And:


...the media and what they choose to tell us?


Has actually been addressed in regards to the changing face of journalism in the US that has occurred post-Nixon era, in terms of fact-finding-reporting vs punditry-editorializing.

Especially pertinent is an article from the early '90s by Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward (can't remember which) where the term, "Dumbing Down Of America" was first used (I think it was actually the name of the piece in the Washington Post, which unfortunately I can't give an online cite for because it predates online newspaper archiving).

The article made reference to many strategies that were initially employed by White House PR and initiatives by the right-wing ownership of various media outlets, having been enraged by the Watergate scandal (and investigative journalism in general) when Reagan came into power; in order to shift the focus of journalism away from fact-finding and more along partisan defaults, or "us vs them".

The debate concerning journalism today is no longer about truth in reporting, it's about the "liberal/conservative media", ....or, ...the "partisan truth" of one of two default perspectives, ...rather than facts. This "dumbed down" reality was presaged by ...hmmm, I think it was Bernstein actually, two decades earlier, in very explicit detail.
 rickxyz
Joined: 1/27/2009
Msg: 6
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 9:57:27 AM
Johnny might have a high IQ but can still be illiterate, I think it stems from the degradation of the American family/parents and education system....Chinese kids get excellent grades for a reason....
 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 7
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 10:01:57 AM
I may not have the facts straight and need some help in that dept. Isnt that the reason for threads? So we can learn from each other in conversation?
 Tall2012
Joined: 7/13/2009
Msg: 8
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 10:14:48 AM

I may not have the facts straight and need some help in that dept. Isnt that the reason for threads? So we can learn from each other in conversation?


i dont think your right then , what made you think its gone down ? as previous posters have pointed out the Flynn effect shows an increase in IQ scores over generations .
 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 9
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 10:34:57 AM
I see that from a global perspective that many countries are cranking out some highly educated people. Why are we not ranked up high with them? Is it because our educational standards have lowered? Or that we as a nation quit caring?
Do toxins play a role with the alarming rate of children with learning disabilities?
Does the over all health of America play a role?
I have so many questions that sometimes I have a hard time getting them into words.
Im hoping to get at least some answers as to why some members here do not wish to continue with seeking educational goals. What is happening around us?
 FrankNStein902
Joined: 12/26/2009
Msg: 10
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 11:07:51 AM
I see that from a global perspective that many countries are cranking out some highly educated people. Why are we not ranked up high with them?

To help me and others answer your question, would it be possible to provide a link to the source of information that indicates this?
 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 11
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 12:12:18 PM
thehilltoponline (Howard University) has a little article on Global Educational Issues Persist~ it's recent 04/10. A good stat ranking can be found at http://4bevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm. Im not as computer savy as most so give me a little bit of a break if you have problems finding what I did.

Im trying my best and I need help. That's why I came to the members that post here in the science forums. You are all always teaching me so much, and I assumed this would be a good place to get some answers.
 quietjohn2
Joined: 12/6/2004
Msg: 12
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The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 12:42:56 PM
Try Googling declining intelligence in the US or declining IQ in the US to find references on this topic. The boffins seem to think it may be because smart people don't breed as much.

The Decline of Intelligence in America: A Strategy for National Renewal by Seymour Itzkoff.

Professor Seymour Itzkoff asserts that the United States' decline in economic power and productivity is due to a decrease in our national intelligence profile. The author, Professor of Education and Child Study at Smith College, argues that the U.S.'s social disintegration is due to the fact that there are fewer U.S. citizens of high intelligence, educational potential, and economic productivity. "There are increasingly more children from the lowest classes of all our ethnic groups," says Itzkoff. "Until we can understand this dilemma and change our country's birth patterns, we will never be able to stop our nation's fall."


The decline of the world's IQ by Richard Lynn and John Harvey

Dysgenic fertility means that there is a negative correlation between intelligence and number of children. Its presence during the last century has been demonstrated in several countries. We show here that there is dysgenic fertility in the world population quantified by a correlation of - 0.73 between IQ and fertility across nations.


Flynn published his work starting in the 1980s. Maybe Margo is talking about how things have changed since then?

"The hypothesis that best fits the results is that IQ tests do not measure intelligence but rather correlate with a weak causal link to intelligence." (Flynn, 1987). Based on the presence of the effect on nonverbal tests such as the Raven's Matrices, Flynn believes that the increase is actually an increase in abstract problem solving rather than intelligence. Flynn (1994, 1999) favors environmental explanations for the increase in test scores.


In terms of Nobel laureates, the US wins hands down with over 300 recipients, leading the world in every category but literature.

Thanks Margo

Here are the links to Maro's articles..

http://www.thehilltoponline.com/global-educational-issues-persist-1.2226763
The http://4brevard.com/choice/international-test-scores.htm link wouldn't comeup, but I found it by Googling choice/international-test-scores.htm. It says:

In short, the tests showed U.S. fourth-graders performing poorly, middle school students worse. and high school students are unable to compete. By the same criteria used to say we were "average" in elementary school, "we appear to be "near the bottom" at the high school level. People have a tendency to think this picture is bleak but it doesn't apply to their own school. Chances are, even if your school compares well in SAT scores, it will still be a lightweight on an international scale.
It goes on... and is quite damning - especially to the education system.

Another take, here.. http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/hp/frames.htm.

Personally, I suspect the problem is that the emphasis is on self, and winning. What it takes to beat everyone else (or appear to beat them) rather than being the best that you can be. A corruption of the capitalist ideal. Value is in perception, not utility.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 13
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The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 12:53:50 PM
Guys, it's obvious what Mar was attempting to question in this thread. You don't have to jump on her for mistakingly conflating intelligence and knowledge.

Can we actually contribute to the discussion she's trying to raise and not just jump on her for making a common mistake?

Anyways, here's my take on the topic:


I don't think it has anything to do with "chemicals" in our food or the water supply. In fact - and I think it sounds pretty cliche' to say, but I think the data support me on this - I think it all comes down to education. The evidence shows that we've been getting severely worse at educating children to think critically.

Take a look at the following:
http://sg.wsj.net/public/resources/images/P1-AR294D_SATju_NS_20090825200414.gif

Those data suggest that children are not being taught to think critically as effectively today as they were a generation ago.

A population that has less ability to think critically will literally be less able to reason. They'll be less able to compare pro's and con's, less able to make effective cost/benefit analyses, and less able to use logical deduction to make decisions. A consequence of this is that they will be more likely to take politicians at their word and support their ideas that sound good and appeal to us on a strictly emotional level, but are refuted by logical reasoning and/or reasoning based on empirical evidence.

A specific example I encountered recently was after watching a recording of an episode of the Phil Donahue Show that aired back in 1979. The audience clapped in strong agreement as the guest (an economist) explained that the rise in unemployment was influenced largely by the minimum wage law. And its a good thing they clapped because both a logical reasoning of the minimum wage law AND the empirical evidence (peer-reviewed controlled scientific experiments) show that minimum wage legislation and increases in minimum wages hurt the poor by putting pressure on employers to fire/not hire them rather than helping them by forcing employers to pay them higher wages than they otherwise would (which is what politicians tend to say).****

But, I have a hard time believing that an audience would clap for someone denouncing the minimum wage law today, even if logic and evidence are on their side. I'd think they would be more likely to garner boo's than claps from an audience of today's citizens. That disparity to me seems like the result of a reduction in people's ability to reason. A "dumbing down" as you've described.

And like I said, I believe it comes down to how our schools are failing to educate children to think critically. If we fix that, as I think we can, I believe we'll see our society smarten right back up.




****:I do not want to turn this thread into an economic debate. It's too interesting for that. If you want to address the specifics of this paragraph, please do so by replying to me in a different thread so we can keep this one on topic.




----------Just some input on the IQ thing----------

Americans - or anyone else for that matter - are not less intelligent today than they were at any point in the past. And that's exactly what IQ tests attempt to measure: intelligence.


If anything, you could argue that people are less knowledgeable today than they were in the past. But that would require a somewhat strict definition of "knowledge" that didn't include knowledge pertaining to things such as Lost, Survivor, etc. By strict definition, knowing who won the first season of American Idol and what song they sung to do so is "knowledge" just as much as knowing who wrote "The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money" and what they argued. So if you constrain "knowledge" to certain areas like current events, you might be able to make a case.

Knowledge and intelligence are two entirely different things from a psychology/cognitive science perspective. Intelligence is more or less an innate attribute (like height), and does not change significantly with learning, age (past puberty), or other external factors. But knowledge, as far as we can tell, is infinitely expandable vis a vis education.

The one thing intelligence and knowledge share most in common is that they very substantially from person to person. But unlike knowledge, there is very little one can do to increase their intelligence.

That is to say, an intelligent person can become knowledgeable with education. But a knowledgeable person cannot become intelligent with education.
 Super_Eve
Joined: 10/23/2008
Msg: 14
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 1:10:21 PM

That is to say, an intelligent person can become knowledgeable with education. But a knowledgeable person cannot become intelligent with education.


Meh...I am not so sure I agree with you here, Ubi. Don't you think that it is possible that the acquirement of knowledge can shift how a person thinks, which may impact a score on an IQ test which is a measurement of one's intelligence? (For the record, I am not a fan of IQ tests.)

Example...a class in Linguistics, Logic or Critical Thinking?

Just wondering.
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 15
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Posted: 5/7/2010 1:11:20 PM
How can average IQ change over time? IQ is a test that's normalized to be a relative standard. IE the average is defined at 100, and your score's deviation from 100 denotes how far from the average you lie.
 rickxyz
Joined: 1/27/2009
Msg: 16
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 1:28:13 PM
Education.....here's an example: My son is really smart, can figure out things easily....but I noticed he didn't read well. What I found out was, they stopped teaching phonetics in school, in other words, he could not pronounce any word he was not visually familiar with, I was appalled.


That is to say, an intelligent person can become knowledgeable with education. But a knowledgeable person cannot become intelligent with education.
- I am Rickxyz and I support this statement, I've worked with enough PHD's to know....
 quietjohn2
Joined: 12/6/2004
Msg: 17
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Posted: 5/7/2010 2:33:15 PM
Did you know, Ubi that the tallest populations in the world are found in socialist nations? (http://www.macleans.ca/science/technology/article.jsp?content=20050404_103140_103140). Maybe it is a factor in intelligence too?
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 18
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Posted: 5/7/2010 2:58:03 PM
mtnwldflower

I wish it were me you were disagreeing with! I'd be famous if that were the case!

But unfortunately (for me) it's not. It's with with Francis Galton and pretty much the entire psychology industry for the past 100 years or so. I've just transmuted what I learned from them though education (now isn't that ironic :p).

Saying that intelligence (as it is defined scientifically) can be learned is literally like saying the size of one's hand can be learned. Intelligence is precisely a genetic attribute, affected almost exclusively by heredity.

We don't hear much about this because it is an extremely politically incorrect topic to discuss. But our social preferences have no bearing on how biology works!


I agree with you that I think people can learn to change how they think. But this is called "reasoning" and "critical thinking". These can (and should!) be learned to a significant extent.

Can improved reasoning increase one's IQ score? Yes (although only to a very limited extent). And that's the rub of IQ tests. They don't measure intelligence. They measure answers to questions. Scientists use these questions as aproxy for measuring intelligence.

They do so for good reasons. The questions IQ tests ask are highly unique in that they require almost no knowledge to answer correctly. Rather, answers are affected almost exclusively on cognitive ability. And the collected data/statistics from IQ tests are consistent with just about everything we would expect to see if we could measure intelligence directly. Namely that scores remain relatively unchanged as one ages, that scores are mostly unaffected by levels of education (a professor can have a lower IQ than a teenager), and that scores show patterns of heredity.

The value of IQ scores and intelligence itself is up for debate. But disagreeing with the idea that intelligence is independent of education and learning is pretty much like disagreeing with gravity at this point.
 thecdcisreal
Joined: 6/18/2008
Msg: 19
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 3:20:24 PM
Hate to do this but Einstein disagreed with gravity and look what it brought us ;)
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 20
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Posted: 5/7/2010 3:34:27 PM

Hate to do this but Einstein disagreed with gravity

No he didn't. He explained how it worked.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 21
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Posted: 5/7/2010 4:38:11 PM
I think his point was that challenging popular concepts can lead to great progress. And in that sense, I couldn't agree with him more.

My point, however, is that I was just using a figure of speech. And, I'll also add, that Einstein did not deny empirical evidence ; )

Challenging ideas no matter how universally accepted is fine. But denying empirical evidence is... well, lunacy. Imo at least!
 quietjohn2
Joined: 12/6/2004
Msg: 22
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The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 5:35:01 PM
Hi mtn. The academic world may be moving towards your way of thinking ....
Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving Fluid Intelligence With Training on Working Memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(19), 6829-6833 (reported in http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/05/13/can-intelligence-be-trained-martin-buschkuehl-shows-how/)

I guess we could argue semantics - like wether we consider intelligence to be the potential for something, or the expression of that same something. A body builder doesn't meet their potential for muscle mass until (s)he has done something to help meet that potential. So Margo's question broadens into whether that "intelligence" potential is going down, or if we are failing in our efforts to help our next generation meet their full potential - or if the reported decline is just baloney.

I enjoyed this page of quotes about intelligence - http://xona.com/quotes/intelligence.html Here's a selection..

"...a student completely conditioned to work for a grade rather than for the knowledge the grade was supposed to represent."
- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand."
- Confucius

"Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve."
- Roger Lewin

"What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult."
- Sigmund Freud

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."
- William James

"Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument is an exchange of ignorance."
- Robert Quillen

"Don't argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."
- Phil

"It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value."
- Arthur C. Clarke

"Smart is believing half of what you hear, brilliant is knowing which half to believe."
- Unknown

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cockure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
- Bertrand Russell


Einstein really didn't like school. But Arthur Clark wouldn't see declining intelligence as a problem.
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 23
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Posted: 5/7/2010 6:10:05 PM

I think his point was that challenging popular concepts can lead to great progress. And in that sense, I couldn't agree with him more.

Well, I mean, okay. But that's kind of a backwards example then. Einstein didn't challenge the concept of gravity. He worked on answering a popular question.
 chrono1985
Joined: 11/20/2004
Msg: 24
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/7/2010 7:16:22 PM

That is to say, an intelligent person can become knowledgeable with education. But a knowledgeable person cannot become intelligent with education.


I have to disagree until a certain point. I had a friend that when I first met him was moderately intelligent but lacked understanding of things he would often pursue. After teaching him how to find the information he needed to form better thoughts on the subjects he began to display a greater intelligence. I think the whole reason is that certain knowledge requires you to think in a certain way to understand it, in thinking with the mindset a given piece of knowledge requires you learn to better adapt your thought process, in turn yielding intelligence. However I've seen lots of people just pursue knowledge in fields that are so similar to their own that it didn't require any change in thought process to understand, so all they really gained from it was knowledge.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 25
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Posted: 5/7/2010 8:08:09 PM
Chrono

You said you saw him display greater intelligence.

1) How do you know it was more intelligence that you were seeing?

2) How do you know it wasn't more knowledge or what you believe to be a more rational use of his knowledge that you were seeing?

3) How do you define intelligence?


I think you are using the word "intelligence" loosely. That's fine. The meanings of words are not innate but rather determined by the context of language. And I'm not claiming to have a monopoly in that regard. But you should understand that you are critiquing my use of the word "intelligence", which is based on science, with yours, which is tbd. You're comparing apples and oranges I think.
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