Where does one begin when one wants to informally chat about the dumbing down of America? I don’t want to present a myriad of facts and figures until the actual message is buried somewhere within a column of numbers or some meaningless equation. Besides, who knows how to do an equation anymore?
Another reason I don’t want to bore people with a lot of statistics is because I’m too lazy to do the necessary research. Not only are we all getting dumber but also some of us are getting downright lazy.
I admit that I am only now noticing what is happening to us because I am semi-retired. Up until just a few months ago, I was oblivious to the on-going destruction of thought-provoking brain cells because I was just too busy to notice.
What really opened my eyes to the horror befalling us was when I saw a “Man in the street” type segment on a well-known late night show. A college junior was asked, “Who is the Queen of England?” I bet you didn’t know that not only is Aretha Franklin considered the Queen of Soul, she is also, you guessed it, the Queen of England. You can’t make this stuff up.
Speaking of stuff, remember when we had “The right stuff?” Remember when boys were told they had to do their homework; they had to study hard if they wanted to be astronauts? Back in the 50’s and 60’s, everyone was looking to the stars. There was something to strive for? The vast unknown and all the mysteries it held – it was exciting! It motivated an entire generation.
Where are we, the United States of America, today? In order to go to the space station, we are forced to thumb a ride with the Russians. This is because we have a bunch of bureaucrats in charge of our country, bureaucrats who don’t know how to balance a checkbook.
Last week, I saw the movie “Apollo 13” for the third time. What a great movie. I watched it very closely this time. I watched all the pocket protector guys sitting at their computers with slide rules, pens and paper. They were rapidly doing important calculations by hand without benefit of a machine. I also watched a team of guys take a box full of “junk” and make a carbon monoxide filter out of it, without a set of instructions. Last but not least, I watched them land that spacecraft with barely enough juice to run an electric coffee pot.
Watching all that take place was truly awe-inspiring. It also scared me to death. People can’t even make change today without a piece of equipment telling them how much the change should be. Forty years have come and gone since “Apollo 13” and I hate to say it, but I wonder if they would be able to bring those guys back alive today. Probably not – especially if a slide rule was needed to do it.
On occasion, I will start to feel a little better about all this because I will see some news story about an enterprising young woman or young man and I will say, “Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is.” Then I will go into a convenience store and bring four or five items up to the counter, usually bottles of soda, milk and juice. After I pay for my items, the clerk will look at me and say, “Do you want a bag for these?” I will actually stop and consider how many trips to the car I would have to make before I say, “Of course, I want a damn bag.”
04/30/2012 by Anne Benedetto