Monday, 21 September 2009

So, how dumb are you? [update 2]

Over the last ten years, there’s now doubt we’ve all got dumber – and by “we” I mean “all of us on average.”  To put it as simply as I can, you and I  just haven’t been sufficiently bright to raise the average that the newly minted dummies pouring out of schools and university are relentlessly bringing down.

We’re dumb all over. “18 per cent of New Zealanders had a Bachelor's degree in 2007, up from 9.2 per cent in 1997” says Deborah Hill-Cone, meaning “the proportion of people with degrees has doubled over the past 10 years. “During that time,” she says however, “I suspect we've actually got dumber.”  I suspect she’s dead right. Universities and degree mills have sprung up like gorse across a Taranaki farm, but too few of their degrees mean a damn thing. 

Hill-Cone’s gripe, “unfashionable in these days of righteous self-improvement, is that there are far too many students and far too many universities… and when you graduate these days you're getting a Degree Lite.” Bang on. Most students are dumber when they leave university than they are when they enter (and when they enter pitifully few are able even to do anything more than write their own name successfully).  One glance at what now passes for university work is enough to see how unchallenging it is; and one conversation with a graduate will tell you that it’s not independent thinking that’s valued but regurgitation – and in most cases regurgitation of nonsense. (The Attorney General reckons, for example, that  “too many lawyers practising at the bar are incompetent” and their university courses were “a joke.” The leaky homes saga tells you all you need to know about the quality of architect’s education. And just talk to a graduate from a New Zealand philosophy department and you’ll see the closest thing you’re going to see to a human being who’s been pithed.)

But we’re dumb all over, it’s not just here in EnZed.  In the States they’re talking about the failure of socialist studies courses to deliver on their promise “to promote civic competence.”  “A social studies education encourages and enables each student to acquire a core of basic knowledge…” So how’s that working for them? The Jay P. Greene Blog takes up the story [hat tip Powell History]:

“The Goldwater Institute gave a version of the United States Citizenship Test to Arizona high school students, only to learn that they were profoundly ignorant regarding American government, history and geography. Only 3.5% of Arizona public school students got six or more questions correct, the passing threshold for immigrants, [and] the passing rate for Oklahoma high school students was 2.8%. They somehow underperformed Arizona’s already abysmally pathetic performance.”

So despite indoctrination almost since birth (“Kindergarten through Grade 12”) these high school students

    “wouldn’t do much worse if the pollster asked them questions in Sanskrit instead of English. The pollster would say ‘I am going to ask you some questions about American civics in Sanskrit. Answer as best you can.  Question 1: संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् ?’
    “There is some small chance they would answer ‘George Washington’ after all.”

Now despite EnZed high school students generally being dumb as a bagful of rocks (and their university counterparts being twice as bad), I’m prepared to bet that EnZed students would do better than the Americans even in the American Citizenship Test (but maybe not in Sanskrit). And that NOT PC blog readers would do even better.

In fact, let’s see what the average result for self-selecting NOT PC blog readers is for the following ten questions. Answers are here (scroll down).

  1. What is the Supreme Law of the US?
  2. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
  3. What are the two parts of the US Congress?
  4. How many justices are on the US Supreme Court?
  5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
  6. What ocean is on the east coast of the United States?
  7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
  8. A US Senator is elected for how many years?
  9. Who was the first President of the United States?
  10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

To start you off I got ten. But then, I saw the answers first. :-)

UPDATE 1: And now for education that’s completely different!  Friday night along with around 300 Montessori parents and teachers I attended neuropsychologist Steven Hughes’s “highly visual, rapid-paced and entertaining talk” in which he

“describes how Maria Montessori's brain-based approach to education provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success. He shows how Montessori education parallels what we now know about brain development and fosters the development of advanced cognitive functions, social cognition, and such higher-order competencies as empathy and leadership.”

In other words, Montessori education uniquely follows what the human brain needs as it develops. Don’t worry if you missed it: You can watch this talk and many others like it at Hughes’s website GoodAtDoingThings.Com.

CLICK HERE to go to Hughes's website

Why does he call his website GoodAtDoingThings.Com?  Simple: Because that’s the purpose of education, right?  Mastery.  As Ayn Rand says in The Fountainhead, “before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.”  Montessori education teaches how to get things done, and how to love doing it.

UPDATE 2: More from the same “How Dumb is Dumb” files comes news of Lincoln University students who attended a Nazi-themed drinking party over the weekend – students who, says an excuse-monger on their behalf, “were first years and may not know have known what the ‘holocaust was all about’.”  As if knowledge of the Holocaust is only delivered in advanced history lectures. [Read 'Ignorant' students' Nazi shame.]

But ignorance like this should really be no surprise, should it, since any number of advanced history graduates themselves are happy to wear that murderer Che Guevara on their chest – and to relax at the Lenin Bar and the Havana cafe.  And numerous qualified journalist types who rightly call Lincoln’s idiots “ignorant” are happy to join them there. Oh ignorance, thy name is ‘Graduate.’


  1. I'll have a go without looking at the answers first:

    1. Supreme law would be the Constitution

    2. I think it is the Bill of Rights?

    3. House of Representatives and the Senate

    4. 7? Think it could be 9, I should know this. Nope, I'll go with 7

    5. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine

    6. Atlantic

    7. Republicans & Democrats

    8. 6?

    9. George Washington

    10. President

  2. Far out, no-one in the test got 9 in the graph underneath the answers, and they are US high school kids!!!

    Jeez. What are they teaching them?? To be fair I guess, if you did a similar test in NZ, asking about the make-up of governmnet, our constitution etc it would be just as bad.

  3. "Over the last ten years, there’s now doubt we’ve all got dumber"

    True :)

  4. "And just talk to a graduate from a New Zealand philosophy department and you’ll see the closest thing you’re going to see to a human being who’s been pithed."

    Most of them would have been at least half pithed the whole time they were at univerthity though wouldn't they? It would be the only way they could thurvive the lectureth.

  5. 10/10 for me, too!

    Rather a sad situation when 96% of people would struggle to get 6/10..I simply cannot understand it as these are simple baby questions.

    (Mind you, strictly speaking, I am already a US citizen! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!)

  6. OK. I asked around and got all these answers:

    1/. God

    2/. The Ten Commandments

    3/. MSNBC and CNN

    4/. They are the twelve apostles

    5/. President Obama ('cause he said, "We can do it.")

    6/. The Sea of Galilee

    7/. Obama and Hillary.

    8/. For as long as they don't get brain cancer

    9/. David Letterman

    10/. The Three Wise Men

    THought you should know.


  7. Something strange has happened. I got 7/10, without studying American history at an American high school (or at any school for that matter). I wonder, would my score go down if I studied American history at an American institute of some sort?

    I don't think I've ever read a book about American history either :s

    How do you get so stupid that you can't even get 3 questions right - AS AN AMERICAN!

  8. I think montessori learning centres would take-off if education was decoupled from the state. Also so would alternative medicinal treatments.

    One day it might happen.

  9. Monsieur Pignole21 Sep 2009, 15:31:00

    Re update 1:

    Are you an objectivist or a Cortical homunculus

  10. I got them all correct.

    Really anyone who doesn't should be allowed to blog. Or vote. Or work for the government in any capacity.

    I gave the answer they wanted at #6, although the real answer is "Socialists" and "Communists"

    Just proves, once again, that in spit of Churchill's opinion: universal democracy is no way to run a country --- and even then, he had the house of Lords to ensure things didn't go too crazy!

  11. For proof of how stupid a uni educated person can be, just check out the 'Tumeke' blog.

    Count how many spelling/grammar mistakes bobo Bradbury makes each blog posting.

  12. Do these same american high school students know the difference between the war of independence and the civil war?

  13. After getting all the accepted answers correct, I'd like to give the correct answers to numbers 8 and 10.

    8. Too many.
    10. At the moment, no one.


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