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The Dumbing Down of America

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posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 07:50 AM
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Bow-tied pundit George Will wrote a column citing a statistic on how little Americans read these days. I rolled my eyes. That's no surprise. It's disheartening and disconcerting, nonetheless. Here in America we have every educational benefit and endless resources, both literary and technologically to advance our knowledge on every subject known to mankind from our beginning to present-day. And what do so many of us do? We turn the boob tube on and check out mentally or turn on excessively violent video games and lose ourselves in them. In the process our brains slowly turn to mush. We don't have the patience to slog through research and books, so we sit back and let so-called expert talking heads tell us which end is up. And many actually believe those "experts" know what they're talking about and have our best interests at heart. So many people bank on what they say and argue those vapid talking points, when in fact, much of it is pure propaganda.

I had a wary political science professor in college sigh and say to me once that he could not stand to read the papers most of his students wrote. I thought that was an odd thing for a prof to say, so I asked him why that was. He said that the vast majority of them read the material and simply regurgitated what they read, without giving him an ounce of independent thought on the matter. He said it was like they were all robots. Thankfully, he appreciated my thoughts on the whole dystopia thing. Maybe that was because I was just a little older and more experienced in the real world than my younger counterparts. Who knows. I've always been independent-minded. I got an A in that course, and it was the most mind-bending class I've ever had. I had no idea at the time how important his lessons would turn out to be - for me - in a post-9-11 world. Suddenly everything we pondered in that class came to life. (We read and wrote on books like Evgeny Zamiatan's "We," "The Handmaiden's Tale" and Aldous Huxley's now super-relevant "Brave New World.")

Getting back to my first point, I don't know for the life of me how anyone with means would or could send their children to public school. (I am a product of both private and public schools, myself.) The statistic George Will cited is a perfect example of why I wouldn't. There has been a concerted effort over the past forty or fifty years to socially engineer public school students downward from intellectual greatness to the exact opposite. Their goal? To manufacture a nation of ignorant, thoroughly manipulatable sheep and to stamp out any remnant of intellectual curiosity or independent thinking. Independence leads to questioning. Questioning leads to accountability. Accountability leads to honesty in leadership. How the powers that be despise independence and accountability!

In another poli/sci class we had to read the excellent book - which I highly recommend - Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. No book has ever broke it down to me the way it did. And it has never been more relevant than it is today. It documents the dumbing down of America in simple, easy-to-read terms that will shock all who read it. From the beginning of technology (the printing press) through the advent of the personal computer, it shows how technology, however helpful, has gone farther than anything to unburdon us of any and all critical thought and intellectuall exercise. It was shocking to me. Of course, I always thought that the advent of technology was to man's great benefit. Not the case. Indeed, Postman points out with clear proof that our reliance on technology has hurt us as much as it has helped. Just one quick example, two hundred years, or 150 years ago, the vast majority of Americans, be they rich or poor, were literate. Illiteracy was something that was despised and unaccepted. Today, the illiteracy rate in this nation is obscene, especially considering the abundance of information at our disposal.

My basic thought in all this is folks, if you love your kids and value their education, if at all possible - and I know that's a big if in today's wretched economy - DO NOT allow your children into the public school system!!! Your child will be taught, not reading, writing and arithmetic, as in the days of old. They will be programmed to think PC and dumbed down beyond belief. It's the new education - or REeducation, as they call it in China. It's all about social engineering away from America's long-held great promise of education and independence - to thought police values that are antithetical to all that has made this nation strong and great. Today public school does not teach kids anything about history - at least not anything truly significant. That should scare the hell out of everybody! If you do not know history, you are bound to repeat it. No truer statement has ever been made.

If there's any possible way for you to homeschool your kids I urge you to do so. It's the only chance for your child to excell in intellectual greatness and independent thinking. A lost art. If you can't, then I also urge you to limit the time they spend in front of the tv, online and playing video games. Spend as much quality time with them as you can, and discuss everything you can with them - at least, as much as they are willing to discuss. Let them know whatever it is, they can come to you. Encourage them towards great things and let them know that they should question everything - always and to not take any one person's word on something, but to explore all points of view so they can come to their own conclusions. Let them know that they have the power within themselves to achieve things greater than even they can imagine. And love them with all your hearts.




posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:15 AM
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While I tend to disagree with most of what you say EKS, you hit the nail right on the head with this one. Sad to say, but being ignorant has become "cool". But then, this really is nothing new. When you live in a society where literally anything you want is in your reach, you no longer have the desire for it. A hundred years ago, life was much harder, a real education was the only way you could live a better, more comfortable life. Not so anymore. As poor as some people are today, they still have it much better than the people of the past.

We live in a society concerned more with material possessions, than with improving ones' mind. People would rather have a real life hot-wheels car, than understand how the world truly operates.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:25 AM
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If I had a vote left ECK I would have given it to you for this post.

Amusing Ourselves to Death and Brave New World are part of my library and I have recommended them on other threads. I would be careful in extending this praise to everything Neal Postman has written though, but on that topic he was bang-on.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:31 AM
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Glad we can agree on something TLP.

I'm gonna use the unwarranted invasion of Iraq as an example here. And you may disagree, but that's fine. At least give this some thought. If the majority of Americans knew and understood at least the last 120 years of Mesopotamian history (present-day IRAQ), it would have been much more difficult for Bush to convince us that we should invade and occupy that country. The history of Iraq (in that time frame) clearly proves what we are now seeing. Invasion spells disaster for anyone who dares defy her history. She is not a land to be occupied by outside forces. It is a very curious thing and they are a very intelligent, hard and defiant people. Not to mention, well-armed. The Brits tried and failed miserably and we have now gone down the very same, blood-soaked path they blazed before us. We have fared no better than they have. One would have thought they'd remember their own history before jumping on this bandwagon once again.
Not so.

History is something that our children learn little to nothing about anymore. It's tragic. The consequences can be seen in our leaders actions on the world stage. How can we call them to account when we have no concept of the origins of our foreign policy regarding specific nations? We can't possibly understand what our actions towards them mean within the context of their cultures.

We have got to get back to the fundamentals of educating our children. Say no to the PC brigades! The fate of our nation depends on it.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:44 AM
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Excellent post ECK.

The US is not the only Western country to be suffering in this manner.

I am an early product of the aforementioned, and fight on a daily basis to increase my awareness of past events ignored by my educators.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:48 AM
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Great post ECK, and another book on my list. You got my Way Above vote for that


I have to dash out right now, but I'll add more later. I'm thinking along the lines of better way of learning and making it more fun. Mp3 unabridged audio history books on the net for example. Interactive online learning., discussion boards like these. The potential for what CAN be done is awesome.

[edit on 22-7-2004 by muppet]



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:50 AM
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So, you think the same thing's happening in the UK? I wouldn't doubt it. We share so much in history and blood, our leaders and shadow leaders are probly right on the same socialization page.

I'm glad to hear you're fighting it! We all need to spread this word. If people arm themselves with knowledge and the truth, our leaders can't screw us over as they so have recently. Knowledge is POWER!



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:51 AM
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Originally posted by muppet
Great post ECK, and another book on my list. You got my Way Above vote for that


I have to dash out right now, but I'll add more later. I'm thinking along the lines of better way of learning and making it more fun. Mp3 unabridged audio history books on the net for example. Interactive online learning., discussion boards like these. The potential for what CAN be done is awesome.

[edit on 22-7-2004 by muppet]


Thanks - and your ideas sound very interesting.


Let us hear more!



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:56 AM
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Finally, ECK and I agree too. Really great post.

Your, right ignorance is the new thing with today's youth. I myself love to read, and I always have 5 books lying around that I have'nt read when I go and buy 5 more. Wheter it be sci/fi,history, non-ficition I'm reading it.

Since I was 5 I would read old history books, and books about world history. My favorite subjects were WWII, the Civil War, and medival Europe. I learned alot from those books and it helped me through school.

Parents need to turn off their kid's rap music, and get them to read and learn. In 6th grade, I knew kid who had no idea who won the Civil War or WWII for that matter. And these were'nt ancient events. There both under 200 years. It shocks me that people do not know that the Allied forces won, or the Union was victorious. The answer was always the ignorant "We did". My reply :" Who is we?". Their reply: "I dunno, us?".

For once, a great post I agreed on. Too bad I already used up my TWATS votes.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 08:59 AM
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Excellent post. However, alot of it also falls on how the American family has disinigrated over the last 50 years. Single moms and Dads are now the norm, a woman with 4 kids from 3 men, or a man with 4 kids from 3 women. How is a child, wether he goes to public or private school, going to learn anything without the assistance, reassurance and guidance of family/mentor. I remember as a kid coming home, doing my homework with my mom, and then going over MAth at night with Dad.

Schools alone don't screw up the kids, and as a parent I beleive their should be more responsibility taken by other parents.

Now a child may come home to an empty house, no parents till late at night, and (wether "rich or poor") mom or dad can come home drunk or high or with another person for a night of fun. Uncle Frank gives him extra learning. There are oppurtunities for these children, but many of them never learn of the chances, or get in trouble so early in life it is a waste and lostin passing.

Take active interest in your childrens schooling, expand on the History that is taught and give him extra to read. Even if you have to fit it in between X box games, don't give up. NIce post ECK.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 09:16 AM
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No, I know what you're saying. When I was coming along in college in the late 80's I was seriously considering teaching. I was trained in the classics (philosophy) and enjoyed the socratic discourse between student and professor to no end.

With the Internet now though, I'd sooner kill myself than argue with a 20 year old know-it-all that's never read an entire book, but googled a gazillion out of context quotes to support whatever nonsense they espouse that particular day.

Fat lot of good my centuries old method of aquiring critical thinking skills did, when anyone over the age of 12 can type in "proof God exists" and come away with 40,000 links "proving" an opinion they have no intention of supporting themselves or arrived at with any logical effort whatsoever.

Technology produces intellectual laziness and dishonesty. But it's also unavoidable unfortunately. Everyone should just consider their use of this powerful tool a little more carefully. Some of the most important things said in a forum like ATS are not linked to a website (though some are); but rather in the telling of some life experience the reader may not have had the luxury to obtain yet. Listening builds tolerance, opens eyes and understanding. But we don't do that like we should. We retort. Bash. Link to oblivion to "prove" we're right. We learn very little in this way.

I'll refain from the lecture on tolerance seething in my bones, and suffice to say technology has pushed humans further apart than ever, and in the case of the Internet, not opened up whole new worlds for us to understand, but rather more people to hate.

Here's a link that proves my point.

[edit on 22-7-2004 by RANT]



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 09:19 AM
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Thanks all for the kind words of support for this post.
It's nice to know that there is middle ground to find agreement. There is nothing more important to the future of America than the development and promise of our children.

I found two articles, the first profound and the second encouraging, that continue to express the ideas put forth in this post. I hope they're helpful. But first, let me say this, many think of me as liberal. I've been a life-long, conservative Republican whose whole paradigm of thought shifted post-9-11. It didn't happen over night, it was more a long and studied march to conclusions being cemented. The knowledge I had coupled with that devastating act was so profound, it simply accelerated the process. The reason I may come across as liberal is because those who hold power now have clearly overstepped their boundaries and have made a complete mess of things on so many different scales. We have got to bring balance back to the American debate.

At this point, I refer to myself politically as Independent. I support common sense in everything, regardless of whether someone has a D or an R after their name. I wish everyone could embrace that simple philosophy. We'd all be alot better off.

Here are the articles I mentioned:

The Blue Pill People

by Hari Heath

There are none so blind as those who will not look. If you are one of those who will look, take a look around. You are surrounded -- surrounded by millions who will not look. These are the blue pill people. Who are these blue pill people and why won't they look?
www.informationclearinghouse.info...


I can only hope this means people are waking up to our current reality:

Fox News documentary tops Amazon sales chart

See the New York Times advert

Jason Deans
Wednesday July 21, 2004

The controversial US documentary, Outfoxed, which claims to uncover the Republican bias of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, has become the top-selling DVD on Amazon.com, as the liberal political campaign behind the film gathers pace in the US.
The number one ratings come as the liberal campaigning group MoveOn.org, which contributed £43,000 to Outfoxed's £163,000 budget, took out a full-page advert in the New York Times, declaring: "The Communists had Pravda. Republicans Have Fox".

Film-maker Robert Greenwald's documentary, which does not yet have a theatrical release deal and is only available to buy via the internet, has outsold movies including The Passion of the Christ, Cold Mountain and Starsky & Hutch since going on sale last week.
film.guardian.co.uk...



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 09:36 AM
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Originally posted by RANT
With the Internet now though, I'd sooner kill myself than argue with a 20 year old know-it-all that's never read an entire book, but googled a gazillion out of context quotes to support whatever nonsense they espouse that particular day.

Fat lot of good my centuries old method of aquiring critical thinking skills did, when anyone over the age of 12 can type in "proof God exists" and come away with 40,000 links "proving" an opinion they have no intention of supporting themselves or arrived at with any logical effort whatsoever.


I could not agree more on this point. A lot of that hapenning here on ATS in my opinion.

A good insignt into the difference between information and knowledge. People who cannot tell the difference are not worth the time and effort unless they are open minded and willing to learn.

Thanks for "The Blue Pill People" ECK. Somehow I missed that one on ICH and I visit often.


spelling

[edit on 7/22/2004 by Gools]



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 09:53 AM
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I don't think this is isolated to America either, ECK. Pretty much the same could be said to be occuring in Canada. Great post


Here's a reccommended book dealing with this topic -

the deliberate dumbing down of america
By Charlotte Iserbyt

An excerpt:


PREFACE

Coexistence on this tightly knit earth should be viewed as an existence not only without wars...but also without [the government] telling us how to live, what to say, what to think, what to know, and what not to know. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from a speech given September 11, 1973.

For over a twenty-five-year period the research used in this chronology has been collected from many sources: the United States Department of Education; international agencies; state agencies; the media; concerned educators; parents; legislators, and talented researchers with whom I have worked for at least twenty-five years. In the process of gathering this information two beliefs that most Americans hold in common became clear:

1) If a child can read, write and compute at a reasonably proficient level, he will be able to do just about anything he wishes, enabling him to control his destiny to the extent that God allows (remain free).

2) Providing such basic educational proficiencies is not and should not be an expensive proposition.

Since most Americans believe the second premise-that providing basic educational proficiencies is not and should not be an expensive proposition-it becomes obvious that it is only a radical agenda, the purpose of which is to change values and attitudes (brainwash), that is the costly agenda. In other words, brainwashing by our schools and universities is what is bankrupting our nation and our children's minds.

In 1997 there were 46.4 million public school students. During 1993-1994 (the latest years the statistics were available) the average per pupil expenditure was $6,330.00 in 1996 constant dollars. Multiply the number of students by the per pupil expenditure (using old-fashioned mathematical procedures) for a total K-12 budget per year of $293.7 billion dollars. If one adds the cost of higher education to this figure, one arrives at a total budget per year of over half a trillion dollars. The sorry result of such an incredibly large expenditure-the performance of American students-is discussed on page 12 of Pursuing Excellence-A Study of U.S. Twelfth Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context: Initial Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMMS], a report from the U.S. Department of Education (NCES 98-049). Pursuing Excellence reads:

Achievement of Students, Key Points: U. S. twelfth graders scored below the international average and among the lowest of the 21 TIMSS nations in both mathematics and science general knowledge in the final year of secondary school. (p. 24)

Obviously, something is terribly wrong when a $6,330 per pupil expenditure produces such pathetic results. This writer has visited private schools which charge $1,000-per-year in tuition which enjoy superior academic results. Parents of home-schooled children spend a maximum of $1,000-per-year and usually have similar excellent results.


Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 09:55 AM
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Originally posted by muppet
I have to dash out right now, but I'll add more later. I'm thinking along the lines of better way of learning and making it more fun. Mp3 unabridged audio history books on the net for example. Interactive online learning., discussion boards like these. The potential for what CAN be done is awesome.
[edit on 22-7-2004 by muppet]


Some ofthe classes I took in University had online discussion boards, chat rooms, etc., where members could go and gather, post questions, discuss, etc., but they were rarely utilized. It's too bad because there really is potential there.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 10:20 AM
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Originally posted by Gools

Thanks for "The Blue Pill People" ECK. Somehow I missed that one on ICH and I visit often.


Ubetcha. It's a great article and eerily dovetailed with this thread, I thought. I would encourage everyone to check out InformationClearinghouse - it's an excellent site. Here's the link:
www.informationclearinghouse.info...

Thanks for the contribution Parhesia and Rant. Excellent thoughts and information to chew on. The book mentioned pertaining to education is spot on. We're conditioned to throw good money after bad at our public schools; yet, year after year the level of intelligence and ability drops farther. Throwing money at education will never solve the problems.

One of the most intreaguing facts I've learned is that by and large, homeschooled kids fair much better on their standardized tests than their public school counterparts. (The powers that be cannot stand this fact and do their best to smear those who've made that choice.) The bottom line is this: Homeschooled and private school kids (even) are encouraged to explore the vast landscape of education in its every form and taught to think independently. Their public school counterparts are trained to adhere to groupthink. And is it not groupthink in the CIA that the 9-11 commission now blames for the massive "security failures" that occurred? We should all take that as a very poignant lesson! Get your kids out of the rotting public school system and deny the corrupt powers that be access to the fertile young minds of your children!

DENY SOCIAL ENGINEERING!

[edit on 19-09-2003 by EastCoastKid]



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 10:48 AM
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I think we need change the educational system so it allows kids to learn and investigate what they are actually interested in. Of course there should be some general grounding, but by and large young people have a HUGE thirst for knowledge and understanding. It's a human instinct we need to be tapping into.

Just look at this site for example. I think the youngest user here is around 10 years old, and there are many teenagers who read this site and contribute enthusiastically. In a school context, studying subjects like those covered on this site, and writing essays and arguments, would seem like hard work, but the same people come here and do it for fun!!



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 10:50 AM
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Although a lot of different political perspectives from posters on this thread, its funny that we all agree on the main trajectory of ECK's post.

I attended public school for 12 years. But it did not have the same impact on me as on so many. I grew up in a small town, in the 70's & 80's.

My parents were married (to each other!) until one passed away about 3 years ago.

Every Sunday after church (yes, they were Christians) we sat at the dinner table and explained what we'd heard in Sunday School and church. Then my parents started talking religion. They might discuss parallels between their own belief system and Buddhism, Hinduism (mom's favorite), Judaism (Dads) or Nietzsche (mine). Certainly, the discussion was slanted in favor of their belief system, but other options were discussed.

From there the conversation might switch to politics (mom), history (dad) or science and computers (my brothers).

At about 3:00 p.m. or so, we had to produce our schoolwork. Both parents reviewed ALL our work for the week, and questioned us about each class. Then, dad would nap in front of the TV (the noise drowned out our conversations in the kitchen) while we finished up our homework or played chess. Sometimes mom would play the piano.

My friends were always horrified by all this, since everyone, even table guests were expected to participate in discussions. If you mispronounced or misused a word, mom made you get the dictionary. If you gave a wrong date in history, or misconstrued an event, you had to go get the encyclopedia and read it to the table. (guests were never punished this way).

Most of my friends were very careful not to come over on Sunday until after 4:00 p.m. And they stayed away from weeknights dinners, too.

You were only allowed to eat in your room during weeknights, if you were at least a sophomore in high school. The rest of us had to be present for the whole thing. No desert until the coversation was over!

I was taught to read English using the King James Bible, German using the Deutsche Sudzeitung and Latin using an old vulgate of mom's. (She was a linguist.

I have a lot of fond memories from those times. I was surprised when I got to college, by the amount of things I'd assumed were general knowledge, that no one, including professors had any exposure to.

I excelled at debate in college, and logic as well. I think I learned them at the dinner table too.

One of the things that really frustrates me about ATS is that while there are some incredible ideas here, there is also little interest in debate. A lot of name calling and baseless assertions. Nobody footnotes their arguments, and if you question them or engage their ideas then you're some kind of anarchist or agent provocatuer.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 11:43 AM
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That sounds like a great environment to grow up in dr. and I envy it.

But I would also like to add that not everyone needs this to achieve knowledge.

I don't know if it’s a good idea to get so personal but here goes.

I for one came from a family where both my parents were high school drop-outs. They married at 17 and 22 and proceeded to raise three kids. Oh and my mother is super religious. Three years ago she was ordained as a minister in the Wesleyan church. One of the many brands of protestant I believe. (I have little interest in organised religion). Needless to say my relationship with parents is strained but we are on good terms.

I don't know exactly what made me different. I'm very intuitive and logical. I was the first person to go to university in my extended family. I finished with an honours in biochemistry with a minor in biotechnology. Missed the Dean's list by 0.3%. Then I went to law school and passed my bar exams on the first try. (I'm currently unemployed - go figure!)

Anyway, the point is that my "awakening" started sometime during my science training and co-op work terms. There’s much wrong in science and the way that research is conducted with profit in mind. You'd be surprised at how stupid scientist can be. They are brilliant at understanding the minutia of how things work but they cannot see the "big picture" or the "forest for the trees" since science trains the mind in a reductionist approach. Many could not see this.

I went to law school expecting some very smart people to be debating issues with passion and logical reasoning. What I found was the most closed minded bunch of people you could ever imagine. I hated my experience and almost dropped out twice.

I guess my points are that education is not something that an institution can bestow upon you. It's something you undertake out of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

I believe that if you teach children (I'm single - no kids BTW so I have no first hand experience) to read, write and reason and make sure that you always answer their natural curiosity by finding the answer together or pointing them in the right direction, all the while making resources available (books, music etc.) that they will be fine and find their way around life. Kids are like sponges when ingesting information. Nothing I hate more than hearing a parent say “because I said so” or “quit asking so many stupid questions” to their child. And, pushing them to become a stereotype (doctor, lawyer etc.) will only make them miserable.


Originally posted by dr_strangecraft
One of the things that really frustrates me about ATS is that while there are some incredible ideas here, there is also little interest in debate. A lot of name calling and baseless assertions. Nobody footnotes their arguments, and if you question them or engage their ideas then you're some kind of anarchist or agent provocatuer.


Yeah I know what you mean. I’m a little surprised that these people left Lastday Prophet’s thread alone last night. I’m convinced that a real quality thread keeps the rift-raft at bay. Perhaps they are intimidated or they know somewhere deep down that they have nothing to contribute. Hopefully, they read and think about what they see.



posted on Jul, 22 2004 @ 11:48 AM
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Originally posted by muppet
I think we need change the educational system so it allows kids to learn and investigate what they are actually interested in. Of course there should be some general grounding, but by and large young people have a HUGE thirst for knowledge and understanding. It's a human instinct we need to be tapping into.

Just look at this site for example. I think the youngest user here is around 10 years old, and there are many teenagers who read this site and contribute enthusiastically. In a school context, studying subjects like those covered on this site, and writing essays and arguments, would seem like hard work, but the same people come here and do it for fun!!



As a child, I attended a Montessorie school. It was so free from rigidity, you couldn't wait to get there and learn. It was more like getting off on the mystery of discovery. After my dad died, my mom put me into the public school system.

Your above description of the could and should of education took me back.

Dr_Strangecraft,

Thanks for adding your experience. That whole growing-up scenario seems lost to the ages, doesn't it? And how tragic that is. I especially appreciated the way you highlighted the fact that your parents raised you, TOGETHER.
What a concept, eh? The breakdown of the family has certainly gone farther than anything to contribute to the dumbing down of our society. If only Americans could re-commit themselves to fidelity and family, we'd be so much better off.


It's too bad so many people don't have parents like yours. It sounds like they did an outstanding job raising you.



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