Originally Posted by SolipsismX
That said, when talking about the Bill of Rights or Federalist Papers it's history to all of us. Why does it appear less people know about these things today? Did they fail themselves? Was it their parents? Was it their underpaid teachers? Was it a poorly funded school system? Is it society as a whole? What are the fundamental changes to the culture that may be the cause of this?
I have no answers to those questions.
I think it's pretty obvious if we look around us. What kind of topics dominate the conversation? What do the news outlets care about? Which public figures are considered to be worthy and which are criticized?
Most of the conversation is about badly behaving actors or musicians, celebrities of the moment and athletes. The news rarely goes beyond the headline. If you're a Bieber or Khardashian, you go to the top of the news pile. People spend countless hours sending out trivial tweets or trying to make the world think that every trivial aspect of their lives should be important to other people by posting on Facebook. How many people, especially younger people, do you see walking down the street with their head down staring at their phone. It's said that the average high school girl sends out 200 text messages a day.
Back when the three TV networks dominated, even when people began to give up reading newspapers, at least the news presented on TV was somewhat serious....extensive coverage of Vietnam or the civil rights movement. CBS ran a series called "Health In America" in prime time. That would never happen today. Fewer people watched the recent State of the Union than ever before.
Back before radio deregulation, most radio stations fulfilled their public service requirements by having five minutes of news every hour. It wasn't great news, but at least it kept listeners somewhat aware of the issues of the day. With no such requirements today, people who listen to music radio hear only music. But even the all-news stations don't go beyond one sentence past the headline. Compare that to a BBC broadcast.
Most people get their news from websites today, but because most people refuse to pay for information and the sites are funded by advertising, it's clicks that count and sites get clicks by posting absurdly outrageous stories with almost no detailed content or "shades of gray".
For the most part, we don't consider history or literature important. Science is no longer trusted. Our heroes are not great thinkers - instead they're either people who manipulate themselves into some form of celebrity or those who make a lot of money, without giving much thought as to whether what they're producing, if anything, has any true inherent value. Much of the country is nothing more than strip malls and gas stations. And our kids spend more hours playing video games than they do reading. People who are intelligent are considered to be geeks and nerds. Why shouldn't scientists and engineers be as celebrated as a football player?
Liberals are opposed to standards testing and conservatives have pretty much made teachers the enemy. Not that paying a teacher a very high salary guarantees success, but in most school systems, teachers make far less than they could make in the corporate world (assuming jobs were available). When I was in high school and the strong unionization movements of the day make teaching a competitive occupation with industry, I had fabulous teachers, many of whom were authors, and I received a really terrific public school education. But as public school teaching salaries didn't keep pace, most of them moved on to teach at the college level.
How many students attempt to really achieve and how many are satisfied to simply get by? When I see the local high school students coming off the subway in the morning, they're never carrying any books. How is that even possible? Why is it our culture so readily accepts people who make no attempt whatsoever to gain knowledge (and frequently punishes those who try to). Except in sports.
When we had an expanding middle-class, education was seen as a way to get ahead. But with few jobs available for the masses anyway, education (except for those with very specific high-level knowledge worker skills) is no longer seen as a direct path to a better life.
Look at our cities and compare them to European cities where at least an attempt is made to preserve architecture and culture. We preserve McDonald's and other fast food chains, Starbucks, gas stations, drug stores, banks, giant shopping malls, big-box stores and sports arenas. Want to cut hours at the library? No problem. Want to force teachers to take less money? No problem. Local bookstore on Main Street closing down because the national fast food chain can pay far more rent? No problem. My kid wants to spend hours playing the latest video game console? No problem. I choose to believe what idiots post on the internet rather than what trained scientists have come to agree upon? No problem.
During the last presidential primary, not one Republican candidate said they believed in evolution. (Now I don't happen to believe that they really didn't believe in evolution, I think they just didn't want to alienate their insane base, but still).
The issue isn't finding a reason why we've gotten dumber, it's sorting through the multitude of reasons why we have.