Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Great Dumbing Down of 2009

Okay, first and foremost, let me say one thing. I am not entirely against the idea of the dumbing down of things, par se. If anyone, like me, has sat through an entire episode of QI with their mother having to explain every single joke and repartee exchanged in great detail, Im sure you will be left praying for them to do a willy joke just to give you a rest. Luckily, of late, we have had many television shows which even up this clever / dumb divide. In the same evening it is possible to watch University challenge (a quiz where the top brains from universities across the country plough the very depths of their information intensive brains to relay facts that many of us couldn't even wish to learn in 100 years)and a show called Hole in the Wall (the premise of which is that celebreties deeply pitted in obscurity stand still as a wall with a hole in the middle approaches them, and then they have to jump through the previously mentioned hole in the previously mentioned wall). Good stuff.

But the dumbing down of television is barely even the beginning of the problem. It is in every single aspect of our lives. I take, for example, the key, moving, and windswept statement made by Donald Rumsfeld, America's secretary of defence. (and bear in mind if you haven't heard it before, this is a direct and verbatim quote).

'There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.'

Genius, I'm sure you will agree. The equivelent of saying something along the lines of 'we don't actually know anything, but the good thing is that we know that we don't know.' Military intelligence immediately demolished into a quivering oxymoron. And to make it just a little bit harder to bear, it seems this was a misguided attempt at referencing confucius, who I am sure you all know said 'To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge'. Not a world apart in context, but I cant help thinking Rumsfeld doesn't quite have the same 'gravitas', even though confucius probably wore a toga or a skirt or something.

We also have considerable dumbing down in this country's universities. Many would argue, however, that this was totally expected bearing in mind the 'higher education accessible to everyone' ethos. Let's admit it, we aren't all academics, and as such, we all accept our inate flaws. I didn't go to university, and as such chose to get a degree from 'the university of life' (undoubtedly just something that stupid people say. I can never imagine sitting talking to a millionaire business man who graduated Cambridge saying something along the lines of 'pfffft. Cambridge? I never went to no university, and look where it got me' whilst sitting wearing unmatching days of the week socks and half my face unshaved because my razor was blunt and couldn't afford new blades.) But how dismayed do you think I was, when I learned that Staffordshire University in 2000 proudly opened their doors to students wishing to read 'David Beckham studies'. Apparantly, it provided a module on the sociological importance of football to students taking sociology, sports science or media studies. PISS OFF!!!! This is dangerous grounds, people. This will inevitably just lead to academic inflation, so let us leave the academics to their university, and we shall go and watch Jeremy Kyle, or play with our crayons.

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