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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.
 whitegold765
Joined: 12/26/2007
Msg: 2
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: 3
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: 4
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: 5
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: 6
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?
 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 7
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: 8
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: 9
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.
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 10
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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: 11
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: 12
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The Dumbing Down Of America
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: 13
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....
 Ubiquitous.
Joined: 11/7/2009
Msg: 14
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The Dumbing Down Of America
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: 15
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: 16
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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: 17
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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!
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 18
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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: 19
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: 20
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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.
 xlr8ingmargo
Joined: 7/28/2009
Msg: 21
The Dumbing Down Of America
Posted: 5/8/2010 3:59:08 AM
Excuse me sir but does not that depend on who is doing the home school teaching and what type of program they choose to use? I home schooled my youngest daughter due to her having anorexic tendencies her last two years of high school. You can thank American peer pressure and the media for that. We ended up doing two years of a program I purchased in one. It was an advanced program in both science and math with online class rooms she could use when we both needed help. We were balancing chemical equations and doing college algebra while her friends here were in their second and third semesters of community college before they even saw such things.
We also took many field trips to places like N.Y. and D.C. to visit area museums and we both wrote many papers about our experiences together. Never mind the bond of friendship we created with one another. I regret not home schooling my oldest daughter that had many problems in the public school system; she is bi-polar and has ADHD with an I.Q. over 140. She had a scholarship to college. I can only imagine if I had more time in those days how much more she could have excelled.
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 22
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Posted: 5/8/2010 5:24:30 AM

Really?... And here I was under the misconception that Newton was responsible for this quantum brain-fart...

Yes, that is a massive misconception. Newton defined what it did. Einstein set out to examine why it did it.


The mere fact that home schooled kids taught by amateurs, outclass the those in public schools...

Uh... they don't. Where are you getting your data? Home-schooled kids typically fall way behind those in public or private education institutions, and are generally not as prepared for higher education.
 .dej
Joined: 11/6/2007
Msg: 23
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Posted: 5/8/2010 5:20:37 PM
Good question. After a short research stint, you're right. There's a marked difference, and it's not in the direction I thought it was.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 24
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Posted: 5/8/2010 6:43:41 PM
Mass-production might have a lot to do with it.

Prior to mass-production, articles were developed on a custom basis. So clothes that were designed to fit you, were expensive. If you bought second-hand clothes, then you could expect they wouldn't fit you properly. So you'd have to tailor them yourself, and that would take brain-work and planning, to find matching material at a reasonable price, and to work out how to . You might even not be able to get a dress that fitted you properly, and you might be forced to design and make your own dresses.

Tools had the same problem. So if you were an engineer like Brunel, and you wanted to make a tunnel, or a ship, you couldn't just buy the tools from a shop. You either had to pay incredibly high costs to have someone make them for you, or, you would have to design and make them yourself.

All of that meant that you had to be very creative, to come up with solutions to make what you could get to fit your needs. You had to plan out how to make the adjustments with what you had. You had to work out how exactly it would work in reality, because it was far too costly in time and money to make all those changes, only to find it doesn't work. All of that meant people had to use their brains a lot.

However, today, we don't need to do any of that. We can just buy stuff off the rack. Because tools, clothing, books, and gadgets are so mass-produced, we rarely have to worry about if our gadgets won't fit our other gadgets. They've all been designed to fit each other. So most of that brain-work has been removed.

As a result, we don't have to think a lot in our daily life about the practical things. However, neural pathways get stronger with usage, and weaker with lack of use. So they act like muscles. Use your brain regularly, and they are quick and strong, like someone who does a lot of physical work in their job and their life. Use them rarely, and it's like a person who has never had to do more than walk to their car. If they need to run for a bus, they can't. Their body is just not used to it.

However, that has a greater consequence. People who don't get any exercise in their life, will avoid activities that require great amounts of exercise. They'd just rather not put themselves through that effort. For someone who walks an hour (60 minutes) a day, running a marathon (26 miles) is difficult. But it's the same effort as someone who walks 6 minutes a day, to run 2.6 miles.

The same is true for the brain. If you use your brain a lot, in lots of different ways, then trying to figure out what a scientific theory really says, and what consequences it has for humanity, does require a fair bit of thought, but it's something you are used to. The same is true of people whose lives don't require thinking, but choose to think a lot anyways. However, those who don't really require themselves to think all that much in their daily lives, are mental couch potatoes. So when they read or hear about a scientific theory, their brains realise that it requires a lot of effort to work it out, and they mostly just don't bother. Either they accept it without thinking about how it might totally change our perception of reality or its consequences of humanity, or they reject it without considering how true it might be or how much it might benefit humanity.

I like having mass-production. It makes my life easier. But nevertheless, it does mean my brain won't get the workout it would have done if it wasn't there. So if I intend to keep up a good mental capacity, I have to exercise my mind on a regular basis, just like my body.
 scorpiomover
Joined: 4/19/2007
Msg: 25
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Posted: 5/8/2010 7:44:02 PM
RE Msg: 36 by novascotialass:
I'd also add that when kids don't have to take notes at school, but are instead given handouts, the information does not get reinforced in their neural pathways. In other words, we can blame Xerox and Cannon for their overly efficient and reasonably priced copiers.
Funny you should mention that, novascotialass.

When I was in university, and I missed lectures, I started off photocopying my friends' notes. But very quickly, I found I didn't remember a thing from it. So I started copying out their notes by hand. Took twice as long as the lecture. But I remembered that material extremely well, and I understood it very well as well.

I also had a similar experience in Yeshiva. We would learn the Talmud, which is written in Aramaic. So I used to use an Aramaic dictionary a lot, and I found that if I looked up a word 3 times, I'd remember it from then on. The dictionary was at the end of the room, and I had to get up, walk over, and walk back. After a while, I noticed that I was the only one using it. So I figured it would be a lot easier if I just put it on my desk, in open display, and then if someone needed it, they could get it from my desk. But after a bit, I started noticing that I wasn't remembering the words, and I had to look them up every time I came across them. As an experiment, I decided to put the dictionary back where it was on the shelf at the end of the room, and see if I remembered the words better. I then found my recall returned to its formerly very good state. So I decided that although it was a pain in the backside to have to get up, walk across the room, look up the word, and walk back, every time I needed to translate a word, it was worth it. Turned out it was, because after 4.5 years, I read Talmudic Aramaic almost as well as I could read English.

This showed me that effort in obtaining knowledge is just as important as obtaining the knowledge, as the greater effort expended in obtaining the knowledge, the better I remember it, and knowledge is only useful if I remember it.
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