What is Dumbing Us Down?
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Some time ago, I read a phrase by Jake Tapper that left me thinking about how our human nature is perceived these days: “Mean is easy. Mean is lazy. Mean is self-satisfied and slothful. You know what really takes effort? Being kind. Being patient. Being respectful”.
Why is it that being mean comes easier on us tan being kind?
Where did we lost the way? Or has it always been this way for us?
Judging by our history, which is full of human tragedy- wars, famine, disease, crimes on global scale, environmental, economical and political crises arising everywhere- it seems like tragedy and misery has always been part of our history, and thus part of our nature.
But still the question is there, in our social physique, in our collective reality: Why is it that being mean comes much easier on us, than being kind?
Something must be wrong, isn´t it?
Obviously, humanity is not all about misery and tragedy- in every person, in every soul, there is as well the good, the kindness, the compassion…. the love at action we have experienced it in many ways. It is evident that we have as well the capacity to act kindly to one another, to build upon the good, to be generous and to love each-other without prejudices. We practice this kind of love mainly in our closest circles of family and friends, and also we have seen these acts of love when we collectively act together in times of crisis, like natural catastrophes, where we understand that our unity and mutual cooperation is the difference between life and death.
By knowing that the good is as well there in us, I still cannot help but keep asking myself: Why is it that the mean, ugly part of us manifest much quicker? Why is it easier for us to judge, criticize, divide and develop negative feelings towards people and situations?
Taking a look at everything that surrounds our current societal structures, I became aware that violence and negativity is quite highly engrained in all levels of our society.
Just turn on the television in any random channel to check out the “News”; over ninety percent of the headlines will be about something negative: Conflicts in remote regions or the world, assassinations, deadly accidents, political conflicts, conflicting electoral rallies (brutally attacking one another political parties), inflation, loss of jobs, negative effects of mass migration and recently updated figures -by the minute- of a pandemic virus that kills by the thousands per day in certain “high risk” regions.
If I get tired of the news, and I turn to a movie channel, the message of the movie is not much different than on the news. Apocalyptic wars between humans and even extraterrestrials, drama love stories with questionable endings, dystopian fantasies…. sex, crime, violence. There you go once again.
I better do not talk about the newspapers, which are just a copy of the local news on the television channels. Same old story. To look for some positive news, I really need to make an effort to find them. They are normally not on the headlines in any massive communications media. You have to dig into the newspaper, or into the hundreds of TV programs with superficial and useless tabloids, until you find a positive, informative- a kind program. You might have heard it at some point- “Bad news sells faster than good news”- Pardon me? Do we really like to be bombarded with much shit and on top we like to pay for it?
Not only is the media mainly promoting the mean and ugly- but also unfortunately our own educational system- which by the way we also pay for, in the form of tax for public schools or directly out of our pocket to their pocket for private schools.
Education. Interesting word. We mainly associate being educated with something positive.
To the eyes of everybody, to be educated means to have gone to school for most of the years of your life.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, education means “Having learned a lot at school or university and having a good level of knowledge”
I wonder what does “Good level of knowledge” really means, and can you just get it in an “Accredited institution”? Based on Cambridge dictionary, what I learn by myself, my own curiosity do not count (?)
In my experience, having gone myself through all the “Accredited” system from kindergarten all the way to the master degree level, I can resume my whole “learning” in the following:
Early years of school: Sit for many hours during the day and memorize large amounts of data in a carrot-and stick- fashion (i.e. Memorize and pour out all the information to the teacher in exchange for a golden star in my forehead. If not done, I might end up in the classroom corner on my back wearing some donkey ears, being the ridicule of all the other kids)
Middle school: The teacher is the supreme person with all the knowledge. To challenge the teacher meant to end up in the Principal´s office accused as “problematic”, “rebellious” and “unwanted”
Bachelor/Master levels: Apart from utter memorization of mostly useless facts, analysis and debate are desirable, even to challenge the “status quo”- as long as your “findings” are acceptable by the mainstream academia- the pressure to get good grades to land a good job becomes stress of the momentum. Competition among colleagues gets more evident than in earlier school years, because you want to get ahead, you want to land better in the job race. Curiously, the more standardized your degrees the better chances of getting a job
Further certifications: Memorize commonly agreed knowledge by a “Certified institution” (i.e. a bunch of individuals that decided that this stuff are the panacea principles of how everything works in life -projects, companies, marketing strategies, business theories) so first pay for it, memorize the data, pour it in the exam, get the piece of paper with your name on it and the stamp of the institution and voilá- you are officially an expert in something (Hallelujah!)
But hey, I must admit that not all aspects of school were so aberrant. The most valuable memories I hold from going to school are the friends I made, the games, the stories we made together. The dreams we shared for a better future. The gatherings, the parties, all these interactions (also with some teachers and mentors)- I hold very valuable on my heart.
Is not the idea of going to school what bothered me; Is how it is structured and how it is imposed on us on a way that seems uncritical and authoritarian in many cases. It is designed to put a lot of emphasis in the memorization of information of all sorts (from math to science to shallow history) and leaves very little time of study of topics based on my free will and the arts. Almost 6 hours a day dedicated to sit listening someone just pouring out information to us. Little time for exploration and play which are the key components of creativity.
We call this obsolete way or learning “Education”- it looks more to me like “Indoctrination”.
According to Oxford dictionary, indoctrination means:
“The process of teaching a person or groups to accept a group of beliefs uncritically”.
Good old Wikipedia says: “Process of inculcating a person with ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or professional methodologies”
Looking at both definitions, current school systems have more the flavor of “Indoctrination” to me.
Going back to my question earlier: Why is the ugly easier to manifest on us rather than the good? Why did school did not help us much in being kinder and more compassionate towards others?
It seems that we learn very early on our lives consciously and unconsciously, that you need to compete and be better than others (already since school). It is so engrained in us, in our everyday life. Praise the good-mannered boy and girl, and punish the rebel. Repress your true nature, your wildness and your spontaneous self, so you can behave well on school and earn that golden star in your forehead.
Put your school uniform, do not dare to customize it to show your personality. Sit quietly in class, listen to your teacher. Don´t talk much unless asked; Oh, you have a question? Wait until I say it´s your turn to talk.
John Taylor Gatto, a school teacher who taught in many classrooms of America for nearly 30 years, described in his book “Dumbing Us Down” the fatal consequences the current system has in our well-being: “The demented school schedule of ca. 45 hours a week is an effective way to create dependent human beings, needy people unable to fill their own hours, unable to initiate lines of meaning to give substance and pleasure to their existence. It is a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and schooling and television and busy work… has a lot to do with it”
No wonder why, schools can also be the very fabric of negativity and the originator of conscious- and unconscious- need to bring the worst of us in order to survive this jungle. Our obsession and stress with exams, to prove our very value of humanity is driving us completely insane.
It´s time to get un-educated.
It´s time to recognize that our value as humans do not depend on a grade, or a job, or anything material we attach to our existence.
It´s hard to be kind when you are subconsciously attacked every day. When society wants to sell you the meanness as cool, as sexy and even worse, as normal.
Being kind, compassionate and respectful should be the new easy. It will be, the day we allow ourselves to wake up, stand for what we really are: Pure love in nature and spirit.
“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.” ― John Taylor Gatto
“…good things happen to the human spirit when it is left alone.” ― John Taylor Gatto