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Society wants you to be dumber

At one time intellectuals were the celebrities of their day. Today, this is far from the case. For instance, how many of you know who Kary Mullis is? Probably not many, if any. On the other hand, how many of you know who Kim Kardashian is? Probably every one of you. Through the actions of the people that participate in it, modern society strives to make everyone as dumb as possible - whether consciously or subconsciously.

For the most part, people only like other people to be good at physical activities. For example, Michael Phelps is a celebrated American that can move quickly through the liquid phase of water. Although I commend Mr. Phelps on his achievements and the likely hard work that it took to reach them, unless I were to be drowning in his presence, what good does that do me? None. However, people love him anyway without even knowing him personally. He could be very personable, or he could be an asshole. One way or the other, it's of no concern to most of his supporters.

This is not just a celebrity phenomenon. This also happens on a local level. Consider the "star" athletes that many of you went to school with. Being good at physical activities is often a ticket to lenience and a criteria for establishing the pecking order. Further, the grades of such student athletes are often ignored or even modified because of their physical superiority to the other students. The favor that results from physical prowess in an academic setting also comes from other students - not just the adults. Girls dream to date the captain of the football team and the boys dream to date the head cheerleader.

Now, let us consider how intelligent children are treated. Suppose a student attends a class where the teacher is known to curve the grades, how is a student treated that consistently makes near a 100% on every test? Have you ever gotten mad at someone for "ruining" the curve? Looking back, should that "over-achieving" student been forced to study less or intentionally do poorly on exams for the sake of the other students? Or, should it be the responsibility of the other students to study more if they would like a better grade?

Further, what happens when a teacher offers a very intelligent student praise in front of the rest of the class? Spite often grows within the remainder of the students, and the intelligent student becomes aware of this buildup. Praise from the teacher may be followed by psychological punishment from the other students. Intelligent students become afraid to discuss what they made on tests and homework for fear of incurring verbal abuse, and teachers eventually stop the praise for the "protection" of the intellectual child. In some cases, teachers won't give praise to "smart" students because they don't want to make the other students feel bad. Scholastic achievement induces jealously in others and hinders the potential of many students.

Take for instance this scenario: Two identical twin boys attend the same school - one an athlete and the other an excellent student that has never been interested in or played any sports. During the same week, the athlete leads the football team in a win over a local rival while the other twin travels to Washington DC and leads the debate team to a national first place victory over every other school in the country that wished to participate.

Given your life experience, which twin will receive the most positive attention from the student body and the faculty of the school that week? A: The athlete.

To demonstrate on a more personal level, how many of you tune out of conversations when someone talks about something technical? How many of you avoid conversations with "smart" people? How many of you have ever called someone a nerd? How many of you have people at your workplace that do excellent work that you don't like because of it ("John Doe is making us all look bad... The asshole")? How many of you have gotten angry and possibly accused an individual of talking down to you when he or she spoke intelligently about a subject or simply asked a difficult question?

Further, how many of you have been the "smart" kid? How many of you felt reluctant to tell others what you made on an exam that everyone else failed or did poorly on? How many of you have kept your opinions to yourselves when you had something to say in depth on an issue for the sole reason that you knew that the people probably wouldn't listen anyway or even be offended?

The actions of modern society - whether intentional or not - promote ignorance and discourage intelligent people from communicating with others about what they may know. This may have been productive in the days of cavemen, but it is destructive to the current progress of humans.

Making intelligent people feel ashamed of their intelligence does not make the perpetrators any better off. Trying to make a "smart" kid appear dumber does not make the other kids any more intelligent. The human being is an amazing animal. Barring unfortunate mental limitations, we all have a superb ability to learn. Some choose to use that ability more often than others, but we all have it.

I'm a fan of many athletes - some more informed than others. For instance, Peyton Manning seems very intelligent. But if all the athletes quit tomorrow, the world would not end. It may even become more productive with people not so distracted. On the other hand, what would happen if all the scientists and informed technicians quit tomorrow? Do any of you know how to operate a nuclear power plant, make cellphones work, or have enough knowledge about General Relativity to program a GPS satellite? With this in mind, who should be celebrated more by society?

Maybe society should rethink its strategy/habits regarding these matters. At least those of us that are now aware, can do our part to correct this behavior.

Note: Athletes are simply a convenient example. Physical prowess - obviously - does not imply that someone is mentally inferior. This is a problem in itself. Many "jocks" are assumed to be dumb - just because. As a person that was the largest person in my class (I'm now 6'7" and 240 lbs), I often faced this stereotype by those unfamiliar with me as a child even though I made A's in all my classes. My last intention would be to further the propagation of that generality.

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After thinking about this a little more...

I think this boils down to people that would rather tear others down than put forth the effort to improve themselves.