Sunday, August 8, 2010


Enough dumbing down. 
Time to smarten up instead.
Time to clobber little kids with Latin and Greek, French and Mandarin and English and to stop saying that any old grammar and spelling is acceptable.  Let’s set demanding tasks and draconian curricula at an early age and let’s encourage excellence instead of rewarding mediocrity.
How about expecting people to make an effort to keep up, instead of talking down to them?
In fact, people like a challenge.  We rise to it, it stimulates and requires us use different parts of our brain.  We feel good when we’ve mastered something difficult.  We’ve proved that we’re better than we thought.  
What's the point of condescending and assuming people are dumber than they are?  Supposedly, it’s so the slower ones can understand.  But it’s been shown often enough that those of whom little or nothing is expected, deliver.  Likewise, when a lot is expected of the same people, they also deliver.  Like the inner city kids dealing with hard lives who can manage calculus, ballet, opera, chess, violins when that is expected of them. 
Dumbing down does nobody any favours.
Lack of expectations is crippling.
Better to assume that people are smart and expect them to understand than to expect little or nothing and so discourage them from improving, exploring and growing.  If it were assumed that we're all more intelligent than we think we are, we’d try harder, learn more, get better jobs and our quality of life would improve.  A bit utopic but why not aim high?
People want to conform, so why not set a high standard to conform to rather than a lower one?  Smarts are not the purview of the rich, neither is stupidity confined to the poor.  There are many rich, educated people who aren't intelligent, many poor people with so-called street smarts.  Smarts are smarts whether they're street or academic.
Let’s stop calling smart people nerds and dweebs and dorks and geeks and picturing them as insecure weaklings in glasses.
Smart people are confident and strong and sexy.
Have you noticed that stupid people consider others stupider than themselves? 
And intelligent people consider others at least as smart as they are, if not smarter?
Stupid people are dangerous.
Stupid people dumb down.
Fight stupidity by smartening up.


Claire King said...

Yes, yes, YES! Great post!

SomeBeans said...

Given the content of your post, I feel confident in pointing out you have mis-spelled curricula ;-)

Nora Lumiere said...

Thank you Claire! I knew this would be a dangerous post, but 2 mistakes in one sentence shows how necessary smartening up is, n'est-ce-pas?

SomeBeans said...

@NoraLumiere - I feel I have broken a butterfly on a wheel with my endless pedantry ;-)

In the UK BBC4 is doing some fine work in not dumbing down. There are science programs which I have to pay attention to all the way through in order to understand what they're saying!

Nora Lumiere said...

If you hadn't pointed out the errors, you'd have been dumbing down, so thank you.
BBCradio4 also has some thought-provoking arts shows on iPlayer.
BTW, didn't you Americanise your spelling of "programme'?

myshorterstories said...

My sons always rush to finish homework assigned by the 'mean' teachers (trans.: the ones who don't pass out easy worksheets). They like being challenged. They need it. And they need good stories, because good stories feed good dreams and help them stretch. Thanks for your eloquent post on the high cost of making things easier.

Nora Lumiere said...

Lovely to hear this and thank you for the "eloquent".
Yes, we need higher standards all round and more demands on our intelligence.
It's criminal to bore kids in school when their minds are as open and malleable as they're ever going to be.

Rebecca Sutherland said...

Hi Laura,you might be interested in listening to Radio 4's Word of Mouth from the 10th August, it was all about this very subject:

Nora Lumiere said...

Hello Lecky, The Word of Mouth discussion raised the dreaded “elitist” argument. What I want to know is, are the disadvantaged kids who master particle physics and choral singing transformed into elitists when they’ve mastered so-called “posh” and formerly inaccessible things?

Nora Lumiere said...

After much online debate and even more research, it seems that *draconian*, even though it's derived from Draco, the Greek lawmaker, no longer takes a capital letter.
And, considering that *sadism* doesn't get capitalised, I'm going with draconian with a lower case "d" in the interest of fairness.

paris parfait said...

Brilliant! Well said.

Nora Lumiere said...

Thanks for your comment Tara!
We should all have great expectations of ourselves and others.