08 April 2011

Atlas Shrugged, Dumbed Down Electorate, and Idiocracy

Wikipedia Commons

Atlas Shrugged, The Movie Part I, is due to be released to theatres in one week. The book Atlas Shrugged was written by Russian emigre' Ayn Rand, in the 1950s, published in 1957. It is set in a society where people have forgotten how to think rationally, and are thus at the mercy of powerful groups who tell them how to think and what to do. It is a society very much like our society, and the book is a powerful cautionary tale for persons bold enough to think for themselves.

Modern society is breeding generations of persons incapable of rational thought, regardless of the amount of "education" they are forced to endure. In spite of everything, university students cannot think, cannot read or do maths, cannot write, cannot spell -- one could be easily forgiven for thinking that most college students do not actually belong in college.

Here is the problem with societies whose brightest lights are not so bright -- for whatever reason: The persons and groups that are chosen to lead these societies tend to exacerbate the "brain dimming problem," rather than to generate solutions to it. And so the process of "dumbing down" progresses along the path of least resistance until -- before you realise it -- a full-blown Idiocracy is in session.
From the point of view of schooling, when children typically enter first grade at about age 6 years, only one third are able to use any logical reasoning. That means that they are not ready for much of what is usually taught at that grade. This issue of readiness is a significant one for schooling and this table gives the first general information about readiness. Some teachers and principals have estimated for me that about one-third of the matters in junior high school require formal reasoning. Yet, at those ages (12-14 years) no more than 20% have reached that reasoning level.

That means that most of the children cannot understand the most significant matters being taught in junior high school. In essence they are being taught in a foreign language. The result is that such children begin to pay no attention and begin, as is now well known, to consider dropping out of school. When they arrive in senior high school and the lack of understanding continues, drop-out behavior becomes a real alternative.

Teachers surely know that there is a spectrum of ability levels of the children in their classes, but they don't know how to handle it. If teachers were really aware of the data in the table, they would know that significant modifications of their instructional level are needed for these non-ready children. That still wouldn't tell them what to do.

What is needed is what can be called cognitive level matching (CLM): matching the level of instruction to the expectations of the individual students. Now that we have the Shayer/Adey test (and others developed since then), teachers can discover the reasoning levels of their students and interact with them accordingly.

There is no question but that this is an enormous strain on the teachers, and requires that the teachers, too, be tested for their operating cognitive levels. The need for such testing is evident from the last line of the table which gives the data for adults. Adults remain at the highest percentage reached at the end of high school: only one-third can reason formally. So, acceptance of applicants to higher education schools should be based on testing of the cognitive levels of prospective teachers in addition to the information gathered from the usual SAT test taken at the end of high school for those preparing to go on to higher education. _The Fourth "R"
I think you see the problem with the all-too-reasonable recommendations given at the conclusion of the essay above: Teachers' unions would never accept the requirement that teachers actually be capable of rational thought in order to be employed as teachers. If ordinary members of government unions in Wisconsin were willing to skip work to demonstrate and occupy public buildings, faking medical excuses and abandoning their responsibilities just for the right to be forced to have union dues deducted from their paychecks, how do you think they will react if regulations come along that require them to be able to think like intelligent beings?

Modern dialogue at the highest levels is chocked full of logical fallacies. Even the more intelligent students are not typically taught basic reasoning skills -- nor are they given the ability to detect the common fallacies and illogical modes of reasoning. This lack of ability to reason is reflected in much "research" -- including research in sciences such as climatology and psychology. Naturally the problem extends down the bell curve (see graph at top) -- to the less intelligent. Overall, fuggiduhbowdit!

When faced with such a society of madly proliferating dimwits, John Galt chose to chuck it all and abandon society to its Idiocratic tendencies -- and he invited all rational and ethically ambitious persons to join him in safety. Society would eventually fall apart of its own inconsistencies and inadequacies, allowing Galt and his co-conspirators to return and help put the pieces together more rationally.

But fiction is fiction, and reality is fiction too er, reality, although often "stranger than fiction." If all the bright, competent, rational, and ethical persons dropped out of modern societies, it might be difficult to find enough working pieces in the aftermath to put together a functioning society. Difficult to say.

It is obvious that resources are flowing from the productive to the unproductive, and that the rapidly expanding government-dependent sector is on a determinedly kamikaze course.

You may not be willing to "go Galt," but you should have at least one fallback position. Preferably more. Optimally, a community of ethical, competent, and rational persons would stand ready to form a focus of competent recovery, should the situation warrant.

There is an ongoing counter-reaction to the Idiocracy, but the sheer numbers of Idiocrats and government-dependent persons argues against the success of the anti-Idiocratic forces. In modern societies, brain-rot tends to set in from the earliest ages and progress from there, unless the parents are truly exceptional.

It is likely to take a number of years for the parallel trends of societal breakdown to reach a climax -- if Obama is re-elected the derailment is apt to come a bit sooner.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately many of the brightest (dimmest?) luminaries of the idocracy consider themselves to be the bright, competent, rational, and ethical ones - and consider the rest of us, who have the reasoning ability to foresee the results of their irrational utopian schemes, to be dull, unimaginative, and mean.

Friday, 08 April, 2011  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

*sigh* I suppose that explains why, when I point out the (to me, anyway) logical consequences of an action, people look at me as though I've inexplicably started speaking an alien language. I look at them with exasperation because I feel they're deliberately hiding the consequences and/or lying about the outcome of the action.

Maybe they really can't mentally see multiple scenarios simultaneously taking place and immediately come up with the most probable outcome.

Saturday, 09 April, 2011  
Blogger kurt9 said...

The credentialed elite believe we can create lake Woebegone. Where the women are strong, the men good looking, and all of the kids are above average.

Sunday, 10 April, 2011  
Blogger gtg723y said...

SO is progressive going to include a high IQ discount? If so I am sooooo switching.

Wednesday, 13 April, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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