The term dumbing down describes the deliberate diminishment of the intellectual level of the content of schooling and education, of literature and cinema, and of news and culture.
The idea of and the term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang, used by motion picture screenplay writers, to mean: “revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence.”
The occurrences of dumbing down vary in nature, according to the subject matter under discussion and the purpose of the simplifier, but the dumbing-down usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of conceptually undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning of a society; by such simplistic means the writer and the speaker justifies the trivialization of cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.
Nonetheless, the term dumbing down is subjective, because what a person considers as a dumbed-down cultural artefact usually depends upon the taste (value judgement) of the reader, the listener, and the viewer.
Hence, in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979) the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) proposed that, in a society in which the cultural practices of the ruling class are rendered and established as the legitimate culture of that society, that action then devalues the cultural capital of the subordinate social classes, and thus limits their social mobility within their own society.
In the late 20th century, the increased number of students attending university, because of lowered scholastic aptitude standards, required the establishment and maintenance of intellectual distinctions; thus, in 2003, the UK Minister for Universities, Margaret Hodge, criticized Mickey Mouse degrees as a negative consequence of universities dumbing down curricula to meet “the needs of the market”, degrees conferred for studies in a field of endeavour “where the content is perhaps not as [intellectually] rigorous as one would expect, and where the degree, itself, may not have huge relevance in the labour market”, thus, a university degree of slight intellectual substance, which the student earned by “simply stacking up numbers on Mickey Mouse courses, is not acceptable”.
The high school physics instructor, Wellington Grey, published an Internet petition, wherein he said “I am a physics teacher. Or, at least I used to be”; and complained that “[Mathematical] calculations – the very soul of physics – are absent from the new General Certificate of Secondary Education.” Among the examples of dumbing-down that he provided were: “Question: Why would radio stations broadcast digital signals, rather than analogue signals? Answer: Can be processed by computer/ipod” to “Question: Why must we develop renewable energy sources?”
In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1991, 2002), John Taylor Gatto presented speeches and essays, including “The Psychopathic School”, his acceptance speech for the 1990 New York City Teacher of the Year award, and “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher”, his acceptance speech upon being named as the New York State Teacher of the Year for 1991. Gatto speculated:
Was it possible, I had been hired, not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy, on the face of it, but slowly, I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think, and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.
ON A PERSONAL LEVEL ….
If you’re finding it difficult to shut off auto-pilot and be more present in your life, here are ten simple things you can do to get started:
1. Appreciate the things others do for you
Start taking notice of the small favors people do for you. By telling my husband how much I appreciate what he does, I’m more in tune with how happy he makes me feel.
2. Start listening
Admit it: when your kids (or sometimes your friends) launch into a long story, it’s easy to stop paying attention. Instead of formulating your response, sit back, watch the person’s body language, and listen.
3. Sit with your body; quiet your mind
You can do this at any point during the day. Take a break from what you’re doing, feel the space your body is taking up, and think only of your breathing.
4. Be more aware of your posture
Becoming more attuned to where your body is in space can turn a slouch into a ramrod straight spine. I have personally grown a full inch since posture became a priority.
5. Think of those who are less fortunate
When you’re facing a hurdle, take a moment to imagine how it would feel to be homeless or seriously disabled. Then turn your focus back to your life, and grasp the full greatness of what you do have.
6. Practice progressive relaxation
You can combine this with #3 when you have time. Lie down in a comfortable position. Tighten and then systematically relax each muscle group.
7. Eat slowly
Allow your food to sit on your tongue longer; put your fork down in between bites. Enjoy the way your food tastes, feels, and smells.
8. Drive under the speed limit
By making a conscious effort to move more slowly, you’ll realize that life doesn’t have to be so fast paced, leaving you more capable of enjoying the scenery.
9. Recognize that answering your cell phone is a choice
So many people answer calls, text, or read facebook updates while engaging in face-to-face interactions with other people! Put your phone down, turn it off, and focus on the real people around you.
10. Do things that make you feel good
You have the power to say yes and no. Utilize that power according to your happiness requirements. Simply: participate in activities that you enjoy, and avoid situations and people that cause your happiness level to suffer.
We ALL are ONE!!
Dumbing Down America Mass Media Programming
More importantly, research, read!! You become the media!!