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Thread: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playful Wa

  1. #1 Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playful Wa 
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    Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playful Way’

    The repressions of modern life have lost for us the “primary pleasures of which the censorship disapproves”. Art and wit liberates repressed instinct; both rid us of our inhibitions and open the unconscious for inspection and pleasure. Art and wit are avenues for play.

    Art and wit battle against repressive reason and the reality-principle in an effort to regain lost liberties. A special pleasure in wit is derived from an “economy in the expenditure of inhibitions or suppressions”.

    Modern life causes us to constantly expend psychic energy in order to repress fundamental desires; in overcoming these repressions and activating the playful primary process both art and wit allow us to divert that energy toward other ends.

    Group psychology inclines us to develop subversive groups which become authoritarian ideologies whereas art and wit incline us to form subversive groups which can communicate to third parties and therefore not become authoritarian but inclusive and democratic. “In contrast with the repressive structure of the authoritarian group, the aim of the partnership between artist and an audience is instinctual liberation.”

    One result of our successful technology is human longevity. We continue to extend life and often prolong a period of slow and expensive dying. I am 76 and therefore consider myself to be allowed to speak about such things as cessation of this madness of an ever expanding old age. It is time to seriously discuss the fact that we cannot continue with the foolish process that results in an ever expanding population that includes an ever expanding percentage of old folks dying slower and slower.

    Quotes from Life against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown


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    In my own opinion, art is the meaning of existence. To create is god-like. Art is also, I believe, the only way to achieve world peace. Also, I think it is interesting to note, at least by my observations, that animal species that are non-violent choose their mates by artistic expression rather than alpha-males violent dominance.

    As for the problem of age, you have a good point. We are a chemical reaction that has survived only because of chance, not because we are 'meant to'. We are an interacting energy process that fights to keep itself going, though we do not know for sure why we do, other than the fact that our ancestors managed to reproduce before they died. This is seen as a goal of evolution, when in reality it is simply an outcome of evolution just as death is. To say that evolution favors those who are 'best' at extending the chemical reaction is to imply that all life forms are aware of this long-term goal during their life span. In my opinion, it is simply an outcome of instinctual desires, which are caused only by the fact that the only animals still existing must have had these desires. I've forgotten where I was going with this. fin.


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  4. #3 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
    Lyn
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    One result of our successful technology is human longevity... It is time to seriously discuss the fact that we cannot continue with the foolish process that results in an ever expanding population that includes an ever expanding percentage of old folks dying slower and slower.
    If you were in charge, where would you start making cuts? Eliminating life support systems might be your best bet, since you get to reduce technology and longevity in one shot.
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  5. #4 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    One result of our successful technology is human longevity... It is time to seriously discuss the fact that we cannot continue with the foolish process that results in an ever expanding population that includes an ever expanding percentage of old folks dying slower and slower.
    If you were in charge, where would you start making cuts? Eliminating life support systems might be your best bet, since you get to reduce technology and longevity in one shot.

    I would start with an effort to develop enthusiasm in the nation (America) for learning CT (Critical Thinking). We cannot solve problems one increment at a time. Our failure to develop an educational system that taught people not only what to think but also how to think is fundamental. We cannot reason together effectively unless there is a general confidence in reason.

    Once this first step begins we can turn to the problem of helping adults learn what the domain of knowledge we call "morality" is all about. Presently our primary instruction as to this matter happens only in Sunday school or its general equivalent.

    Basically we must build from the bottom up an intellectually sophisticated population or I am convinced our civilization will surly collapse shortly. Our technology has placed extraordinary power into the hands of very ordinary people. We can no longer afford the luxury of remaining an ordinary naïve people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by schiz0yd
    In my own opinion, art is the meaning of existence. To create is god-like. Art is also, I believe, the only way to achieve world peace. Also, I think it is interesting to note, at least by my observations, that animal species that are non-violent choose their mates by artistic expression rather than alpha-males violent dominance.
    I think that if we broaden our understanding of art we can better comprehend that we are meaning creating creatures.

    I am convinced that the most important thing that we can learn from the study of art is what it can teach us about our self and how we perceive and conceive the self and the world around us.

    I have been studying Art and Visual Perception by Rudolf Arnheim, Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl, and Abstraction and Empathy by Wilhelm Worringer. These works have been very helpful to my effort to understand why we humans do the things we do.
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  7. #6 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
    Lyn
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    If you were in charge, where would you start making cuts?
    I would start with an effort to develop enthusiasm in the nation (America) for learning CT (Critical Thinking).
    That sounds a lot like saying you want someone else to figure it out. You yourself do not have an opinion about which technological advancements you would curtail?

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Our failure to develop an educational system that taught people not only what to think but also how to think is fundamental.
    Here we go again. To continue the discussion you fled here, please cite a fact or statistic to justify your rampant stereotyping of American education. Even just one fact, please.
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    I'll give you a fact, lyn. Schools allow hierarchies to form within social groups that are a reflection of our own history as a species. Many children climb in social status by effectively dominating others, tactlessly demeaning their peers as a way of increasing their popularity among the rest. The success that they achieve is never questioned and encourages others that they have put down to follow suit on all those 'below' them until the full hierarchy is complete with the people at the bottom being those who chose not to take part in conflict and competition, and instead become fully defensive out of fear and create subconscious issues that cause anxieties.

    Schools enforce rules much like law enforcement, punishing for misdeeds and creating success only from fear of punishment rather than from a natural understanding and agreement of ethics.
    Things like this are what cause conflict and war in the world when each generation comes into political power. The intellectuals of the world who usually found themselves at the bottom of the social 'food chain' are full of repressed anger from their abusers and seek to oppress others as an outcome. If our schools begin trying to correct this in some way, and manage to achieve peace within the social groups of school systems, the cooperative harmony of our youth would translate into a golden era in the future
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  9. #8 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    If you were in charge, where would you start making cuts?
    I would start with an effort to develop enthusiasm in the nation (America) for learning CT (Critical Thinking).
    That sounds a lot like saying you want someone else to figure it out. You yourself do not have an opinion about which technological advancements you would curtail?

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Our failure to develop an educational system that taught people not only what to think but also how to think is fundamental.
    Here we go again. To continue the discussion you fled here, please cite a fact or statistic to justify your rampant stereotyping of American education. Even just one fact, please.

    The Educational System Was Designed to Keep Us Uneducated and Docile.

    It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation. We hear shocking statistics about the percentage of high-school seniors who can't find the US on an unmarked map of the world or who don't know who Abraham Lincoln was.
    Fingers are pointed at various aspects of the schooling system—overcrowded classrooms, lack of funding, teachers who can't pass competency exams in their fields, etc. But these are just secondary problems. Even if they were cleared up, schools would still suck. Why? Because they were designed to.

    How can I make such a bold statement? How do I know why America's public school system was designed the way it was (age-segregated, six to eight 50-minute classes in a row announced by Pavlovian bells, emphasis on rote memorization, lorded over by unquestionable authority figures, etc.)? Because the men who designed, funded, and implemented America's formal educational system in the late 1800s and early 1900s wrote about what they were doing.

    Almost all of these books, articles, and reports are out of print and hard to obtain. Luckily for us, John Taylor Gatto tracked them down. Gatto was voted the New York City Teacher of the Year three times and the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. But he became disillusioned with schools—the way they enforce conformity, the way they kill the natural creativity, inquisitiveness, and love of learning that every little child has at the beginning. So he began to dig into terra incognita, the roots of America's educational system.

    In 1888, the Senate Committee on Education was getting jittery about the localized, non-standardized, non-mandatory form of education that was actually teaching children to read at advanced levels, to comprehend history, and, egads, to think for themselves. The committee's report stated, "We believe that education is one of the principal causes of discontent of late years manifesting itself among the laboring classes."

    By the turn of the century, America's new educrats were pushing a new form of schooling with a new mission (and it wasn't to teach). The famous philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote in 1897:

    Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth.

    In his 1905 dissertation for Columbia Teachers College, Elwood Cubberly—the future Dean of Education at Stanford—wrote that schools should be factories "in which raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products...manufactured like nails, and the specifications for manufacturing will come from government and industry."

    The next year, the Rockefeller Education Board—which funded the creation of numerous public schools—issued a statement which read in part:

    In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple...we will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

    At the same time, William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906, wrote:

    Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.

    In that same book, The Philosophy of Education, Harris also revealed:

    The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places.... It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.

    Several years later, President Woodrow Wilson would echo these sentiments in a speech to businessmen:

    We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

    Writes Gatto: "Another major architect of standardized testing, H.H. Goddard, said in his book Human Efficiency (1920) that government schooling was about 'the perfect organization of the hive.'"

    While President of Harvard from 1933 to 1953, James Bryant Conant wrote that the change to a forced, rigid, potential-destroying educational system had been demanded by "certain industrialists and the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial process."

    In other words, the captains of industry and government explicitly wanted an educational system that would maintain social order by teaching us just enough to get by but not enough so that we could think for ourselves, question the sociopolitical order, or communicate articulately. We were to become good worker-drones, with a razor-thin slice of the population—mainly the children of the captains of industry and government—to rise to the level where they could continue running things.

    This was the openly admitted blueprint for the public schooling system, a blueprint which remains unchanged to this day. Although the true reasons behind it aren't often publicly expressed, they're apparently still known within education circles. Clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine wrote in 2001:

    I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I suggested that perhaps the boy didn't have a disease, but was just bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she added, "They told us at the state conference that our job is to get them ready for the work world…that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world."


    ---John Taylor Gatto's book, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling (New York: Oxford Village Press, 2001), is the source for all of the above historical quotes. It is a profoundly important, unnerving book, which I recommend most highly. You can order it from Gatto's Website, which now contains the entire book online for free.

    The final quote above is from page 74 of Bruce E. Levine's excellent book Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society (New York: Continuum Publishing Group, 2001).




    Visiting classrooms is like peering into the nation’s future. Right now the view is somewhat frightening. American kids drop out of high school at an average of one every 26 seconds. Only about a third of those who graduate are prepared to move on to a four-year college. And in the savage economic downturn that has gripped the U.S. for the better part of the past two years, retrenchment in public schools and colleges is widespread.
    For a country that once led the world in educating its citizens, we are now moving decidedly in the wrong direction. As Mr. Gates points out: “Our performance at every level — primary and secondary school achievement, high school graduation, college entry, college completion — is dropping against the rest of the world.”
    This has consequences. As Melinda Gates notes: “America’s long history of upward mobility is in danger.”
    The Gateses are co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic organization. They are investing billions of dollars and much of their considerable energy in an effort to spark not just change but a transformation in the way American youngsters are educated.
    It’s an overwhelming challenge, and not all of their early efforts have borne fruit. Educating children in the U.S. means engaging issues like poverty and homelessness, racial and ethnic transformations and entrenched, outdated ways of doing things. But the Gateses seem determined to master this issue and do what they can to help reverse the current dismal trends.
    As they met over two days with students, teachers, administrators and community college executives in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, the intensity of their focus and concentration was striking.
    “You can read about all of this stuff,” Bill Gates told me, “but it’s important to come out and see it, to spend time talking with the people involved, and to visit the bad schools as well as the good schools if you really want to understand and make a difference.”
    The issues can be maddeningly complex. There are school districts in which much of the population is aging and predominantly white and the taxpayers are less than enthusiastic about supporting a school population that is largely poor and black or Hispanic. There are schools trying desperately to raise their test scores, an important measure of accountability, while at the same time trying to keep poor and struggling youngsters from dropping out — the very youngsters who are often a drag on overall test scores.
    But the many challenges will have to be met and overcome if the U.S. is to maintain a successful society. The American work force is becoming increasingly black and Hispanic, and a two-year or four-year college credential has become a prerequisite to a middle-class standard of living. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to see how disastrous it is to have nearly 50 percent of minority kids dropping out of school before they even get a high school diploma.
    “It is so important,” said Melinda Gates, “to get all of the children educated.”
    The Gateses are committed, but they need so many more to follow their lead.
    I’m not sure how or why so many Americans over the past few decades took their eyes off the critical importance of education as the pathway to personal and societal success. In their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz pointed out that educational attainment in the U.S. “was exceptionally rapid and continuous for the first three-quarters of the 20th century.” And then, foolishly, we applied the brakes and advancement “slowed considerably for young adults beginning in the 1970s and for the overall labor force by the early 1980s.”
    If you don’t think we’re paying a price for this, just look around.
    A student in the Algebra 1 class at West Charlotte High summed up the matter cogently when she said to the Gateses, in a voice that was not the least amused: “People seem to think it’s cool to be stupid. But it’s not.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/op...ml?ref=opinion







    How bad are baby boomers at financial planning? Extremely bad, according to Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia Mitchell of the National Bureau of Economic Research. They found that more than one-quarter of boomer households thought "hardly at all" about retirement and that financial literacy among boomers was "alarmingly low." Half could not do a simple math calculation (divide $2 million by five) and fewer than 20 percent could calculate compound interest. The NBER researchers also found that, as of 2004, the typical boomer household was holding nearly half its wealth in the form of housing equity. Uh-oh.


    That so many children in this country cannot live up to their potential because they are born in poverty and attend terrible schools is one of the nation's greatest scandals, as Gates pointed out in his recent letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Disclosure: Melinda Gates is on The Washington Post Co. board of directors.) "Only 71 percent of kids graduate from high school within four years, and for minorities the numbers are even worse -- 58 percent for Hispanics and 55 percent for African Americans," he wrote. "If the decline in childhood deaths [in developing countries] is one of the most positive statistics ever, these are some of the most negative."

    A new report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) on the nation's civic literacy finds that most Americans are too ignorant to vote.

    Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics. In fact, elected officials scored slightly lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent compared to 49 percent.

    Only 0.8 percent of all test-takers scored an "A."

    America's report card may come as little surprise to fans of Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews, which reveal that most people don't know diddly about doohickey. Still, it's disheartening in the wake of a populist-driven election celebrating joes-of-all-trades to be reminded that the voting public is dumber than ever.


    In good news, more than 80 percent of college graduates gave correct answers about Susan B. Anthony, the identity of the commander in chief of the U.S. military, and the content of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

    But don't pop the cork yet. Only 17 percent of college grads understood the difference between free markets and centralized planning.

    Then again, we can't blame the children for what they haven't been taught. Civics courses, once a staple of junior and high school education, are no longer considered important in our quantitative, leave-no-child-behind world. And college adds little civic knowledge, the ISI study found. The average grade for those holding a bachelor's degree was just 57 percent -- only 13 points higher than the average score of those with only a high school diploma.

    Most bracing: Only 27 percent of elected officeholders in the survey could identify a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.






    What's behind the dumbing down of America?

    The ISI found that passive activities, such as watching television (including TV news) and talking on the phone, diminish civic literacy.

    Actively pursuing information through print media and participating in high-level conversations -- even, potentially, blogging -- makes one smarter.

    The ISI insists that higher-education reforms aimed at civic literacy are urgently needed. Who could argue otherwise? But historian Rick Shenkman, author of "Just How Stupid Are We?" thinks reform needs to start in high school. His strategy is both poetic (to certain ears) and

    pragmatic: Require students to read newspapers, and give college freshman weekly quizzes on current events.

    Did he say newspapers?! Shenkman even suggests government subsidies for newspaper subscriptions, as well as federal tuition subsidies for students who perform well on civics tests. They could be paid from a special fund created by, say, a "Too Many Stupid Voters Act."


    Not only would citizens be smarter, but also newspapers might be saved. Announcements of newsroom cuts, which ultimately hurt quality, have become routine. Just this week, USA Today announced the elimination of about 20 positions, while the Newark Star-Ledger, as it cuts its news staff by 40 percent, lost almost its entire editorial board in a single day.

    In his book, Shenkman, founder of George Mason University's History News Network, is tough on everyday Americans. Why, he asks, do we value polls when clearly The People don't know enough to make a reasoned judgment?

    The founding fathers, Shenkman points out, weren't so enamored of The People, whom they distrusted. Hence a Republic, not a Democracy. They understood that an ignorant electorate was susceptible to emotional manipulation and feared the tyranny of the masses.

    Both Shenkman and the ISI pose a bedeviling question, as crucial as any to the nation's health: Who will govern a free nation if no one understands the mechanics and instruments of that freedom?

    Answer: Maybe one day, a demagogue.

    Kathleen Parker's e-mail address is kparker@kparker.com.



    Writing off reading

    The following are articles I found that relate to the problem of education in America.


    Clueless in America
    E-Mail

    By BOB HERBERT NYTimes
    Published: April 22, 2008


    An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

    Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

    “We have one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world,” said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as “actually pretty scary, alarming.”

    Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.

    When two-thirds of all teenagers old enough to graduate from high school are incapable of mastering college-level work, the nation is doing something awfully wrong.

    Mr. Golston noted that the performance of American students, when compared with their peers in other countries, tends to grow increasingly dismal as they move through the higher grades:

    “In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.”

    Many students get a first-rate education in the public schools, but they represent too small a fraction of the whole.

    Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

    Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed — cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”

    The Educational Testing Service, in a report titled “America’s Perfect Storm,” cited three powerful forces that are affecting the quality of life for millions of Americans and already shaping the nation’s future. They are:

    • The wide disparity in the literacy and math skills of both the school-age and adult populations. These skills, which play such a tremendous role in the lives of individuals and families, vary widely across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

    • The “seismic changes” in the U.S. economy that have resulted from globalization, technological advances, shifts in the relationship of labor and capital, and other developments.

    • Sweeping demographic changes. By 2030, the U.S. population is expected to reach 360 million. That population will be older and substantially more diverse, with immigration having a big impact on both the population as a whole and the work force.

    These and so many other issues of crucial national importance require an educated populace if they are to be dealt with effectively. At the moment we are not even coming close to equipping the population with the intellectual tools that are needed.

    While we’re effectively standing in place, other nations are catching up and passing us when it comes to educational achievement. You have to be pretty dopey not to see the implications of that.

    But, then, some of us are pretty dopey. In the Common Core survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents did not know who the U.S. fought in World War II. Eleven percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower was the president forced from office by the Watergate scandal. Another 11 percent thought it was Harry Truman.

    We’ve got work to do.

    An article “Writing off Reading” appeared in the Washington Post Sunday August 20. This article was written by a college professor to speak to the problem of students entering college without sufficient vocabulary comprehension. The problem is described as a lack of reading experience in K-12.

    “How does one explain the inability of college students to read or write at even a high school level? One explanation, which owes as much to the culture as to the schools, is that kids don't read for pleasure. And because they don't read, they are less able to navigate the language. If words are the coin of their thought, they're working with little more than pocket change.”

    “When students with A averages can't write simple English, it shouldn't be surprising that people ask what a high school diploma is really worth. In California this year, hundreds of high school students, many with good grades, faced the prospect of not graduating because they could not pass a state-mandated exit exam. Although a judge overturned the effort, legislators (not always so literate themselves) in other states have also called for exit exams. It's hardly unreasonable to ask that students demonstrate a minimum competency in basic subjects, especially English.”

    This is a serious problem in the United States and I assume it may also be a serious problem in all nations.

    Quotes from

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...800976_pf.html





    New York, N.Y. - Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according to a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) survey released today. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline - 28 percent - occurring in the youngest age groups.

    The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade. The findings were announced today by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia during a news conference at the New York Public Library.




    "This report documents a national crisis," Gioia said. "Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity - and all the diverse benefits it fosters - impoverishes both cultural and civic life."

    While all demographic groups showed declines in literary reading between 1982 and 2002, the survey shows some are dropping more rapidly than others. The overall rate of decline has accelerated from 5 to 14 percent since 1992.

    Women read more literature than men do, but the survey indicates literary reading by both genders is declining. Only slightly more than one-third of adult males now read literature. Reading among women is also declining significantly, but at a slower rate.

    Literary reading declined among whites, African Americans and Hispanics. Among ethnic and racial groups surveyed, literary reading decreased most strongly among Hispanic Americans, dropping by 10 percentage points.

    By age, the three youngest groups saw the steepest drops, but literary reading declined among all age groups. The rate of decline for the youngest adults, those aged 18 to 24, was 55 percent greater than that of the total adult population.

    The rate of decline in literary reading is calculated by dividing the percentage point drop by the original percentage of literary readers.

    Reading also affects lifestyle, the study shows. Literary readers are much more likely to be involved in cultural, sports and volunteer activities than are non-readers. For example, literary readers are nearly three times as likely to attend a performing arts event, almost four times as likely to visit an art museum, more than two-and-a-half times as likely to do volunteer or charity work, and over one-and-a-half times as likely to attend or participate in sports activities. People who read more books tend to have the highest level of participation in other activities.

    The most important factor in literacy reading rates is education, the report shows. Only 14 percent of adults with a grade school education read literature in 2002. By contrast, more than five times as many respondents with a graduate school education - 74 percent - read literary works.

    Family income also affects the literary reading rate, though not as strongly as education. About one-third of the lowest income group - those with a family income under $10,000 - read literature during the survey year, compared with 61 percent of the highest income group - those with family income of $75,000 or more.

    According to the survey, the most popular types of literature are novels or short stories, which were read by 45 percent or 93 million adults in the previous year. Poetry was read by 12 percent or 25 million people, while just 4 percent or seven million people reported having read a play.

    Contrary to the overall decline in literary reading, the number of people doing creative writing increased by 30 percent, from 11 million in 1982 to more than 14 million in 2002. However, the number of people who reported having taken a creative writing class or lesson decreased by 2.2 million during the same time period.

    The survey also studied the correlation between literary reading and other activities. For instance, literature readers watched an average of 2.7 hours of television each day, while people who do not read literary works watched an average of 3.1 hours daily. Adults who did not watch TV in a typical day are 48 percent more likely to be frequent readers - consuming from 12 to 49 books each year - than are those who watched one to three hours daily.

    "America can no longer take active and engaged literacy for granted," according to Gioia. "As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.

    "No single factor caused this problem. No single solution can solve it. But it cannot be ignored and must be addressed," Gioia said.

    Reading at Risk presents the results from the literature segment of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002 at the NEA' s request. The survey asked more than 17,000 adults if - during the previous 12 months - they had read any novels, short stories, poetry or plays in their leisure time, that were not required for work or school. The report extrapolates and interprets data on literary reading and compares them with results from similar surveys carried out in 1982 and 1992.

    Reading At Risk can be downloaded as a PDF document. Hard copies can also be requested free of charge through the Arts Endowment's web site.









    A few years ago, I began keeping a list of everyday words that may as well have been potholes in exchanges with college students. It began with a fellow who was two months away from graduating from a well-respected Midwestern university.

    "And what was the impetus for that?" I asked as he finished a presentation.
    At the word "impetus" his head snapped sideways, as if by reflex. "The what?" he asked.
    "The impetus. What gave rise to it? What prompted it?"
    I wouldn't have guessed that impetus was a 25-cent word. But I also wouldn't have guessed that "ramshackle" and "lucid" were exactly recondite, either. I've had to explain both. You can be dead certain that today's college students carry a weekly planner. But they may or may not own a dictionary, and if they do own one, it doesn't get much use. ("Why do you need a dictionary when you can just go online?" more than one student has asked me.)
    You may be surprised -- and dismayed -- by some of the words on my list.
    "Advocate," for example. Neither the verb nor the noun was immediately clear to students who had graduated from high school with GPAs above 3.5. A few others:
    "Derelict," as in neglectful.
    And my favorite: "Novel," as in new and as a literary form. College students nowadays call any book, fact or fiction, a novel. I have no idea why this is, but I first became acquainted with the peculiarity when a senior at one of the country's better state universities wrote a paper in which she referred to "The Prince" as "Machiavelli's novel."

    As freshmen start showing up for classes this month, colleges will have a new influx of high school graduates with gilded GPAs, and it won't be long before one professor whispers to another: Did no one teach these kids basic English? The unhappy truth is that many students are hard-pressed to string together coherent sentences, to tell a pronoun from a preposition, even to distinguish between "then" and "than." Yet they got A's.

    How does one explain the inability of college students to read or write at even a high school level? One explanation, which owes as much to the culture as to the schools, is that kids don't read for pleasure. And because they don't read, they are less able to navigate the language. If words are the coin of their thought, they're working with little more than pocket change.
    Say this -- but no more -- for the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act: It at least recognizes the problem. What we're graduating from our high schools isn't college material. Sometimes it isn't even good high school material.
    How does one explain the inability of college students to read or write at even a high school level? One explanation, which owes as much to the culture as to the schools, is that kids don't read for pleasure. And because they don't read, they are less able to navigate the language. If words are the coin of their thought, they're working with little more than pocket change.
    Say this -- but no more -- for the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act: It at least recognizes the problem. What we're graduating from our high schools isn't college material. Sometimes it isn't even good high school material.
    When students with A averages can't write simple English, it shouldn't be surprising that people ask what a high school diploma is really worth. In California this year, hundreds of high school students, many with good grades, faced the prospect of not graduating because they could not pass a state-mandated exit exam. Although a judge overturned the effort, legislators (not always so literate themselves) in other states have also called for exit exams. It's hardly unreasonable to ask that students demonstrate a minimum competency in basic subjects, especially English.
    Exit exams have become almost a necessity because the GPA is not to be trusted. In my experience, a high SAT score is far more reliable than a high GPA -- more indicative of quickness and acuity, and more reflective of familiarity with language and ideas. College admissions specialists are of a different view and are apt to label the student with high SAT scores but mediocre grades unmotivated, even lazy.
    I'll take that student any day. I've known such students. They may have been bored in high school but they read widely and without prodding from a parent. And they could have nominated a few favorite writers besides Dan Brown -- even if they thoroughly enjoyed "The DaVinci Code."
    I suspect they would have understood the point I tried unsuccessfully to make once when I quoted Joseph Pulitzer to my students. It is journalism's job, he said, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Too obvious, you think? I might have thought so myself -- if the words "afflicted" and "afflict" hadn't stumped the whole class.


    Allan Bloom, who has taught at Yale, Cornell, the University of Toronto, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Paris, has authored the much acclaimed and vilified book “The Closing of the American Mind”.

    This book is a powerful critique of the intellectual and moral confusion of our age. Bloom argues that “the social and political crisis of the 20th century America is really an intellectual crisis…young people who, lacking an understanding of the past and a vision of the future, live in an impoverished present.”

    Bloom seems to agree with Plato’s assessment of the nature of love. I shall quote from his book in the following paragraphs.

    “Eroticism is a discomfort…Eros demands daring from its votaries and provides a good reason for it. This longing for completeness is the longing for education, and the study of it is education. Socrates proved himself to have been both the neediest and most grasping of lovers, and the richest and most giving of beloveds. The sex lives of our students and their reflection on them disarm such longing and make it incomprehensible to them. Reduction has robbed Eros of its divinatory powers. Because they do not trust it, students have no reverence for themselves. There is almost no remaining link visible to them between what they learn in sex education and Plato’s Symposium.


    The Dumbing Of America
    Call Me a Snob, but Really, We're a Nation of Dunces
    By Susan Jacoby
    Sunday, February 17, 2008; Page B01


    "The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that observation in 1837, but his words echo with painful prescience in today's very different United States. Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.

    This is the last subject that any candidate would dare raise on the long and winding road to the White House. It is almost impossible to talk about the manner in which public ignorance contributes to grave national problems without being labeled an "elitist," one of the most powerful pejoratives that can be applied to anyone aspiring to high office. Instead, our politicians repeatedly assure Americans that they are just "folks," a patronizing term that you will search for in vain in important presidential speeches before 1980. (Just imagine: "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain . . . and that government of the folks, by the folks, for the folks, shall not perish from the earth.") Such exaltations of ordinariness are among the distinguishing traits of anti-intellectualism in any era.

    The classic work on this subject by Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," was published in early 1963, between the anti-communist crusades of the McCarthy era and the social convulsions of the late 1960s. Hofstadter saw American anti-intellectualism as a basically cyclical phenomenon that often manifested itself as the dark side of the country's democratic impulses in religion and education. But today's brand of anti-intellectualism is less a cycle than a flood. If Hofstadter (who died of leukemia in 1970 at age 54) had lived long enough to write a modern-day sequel, he would have found that our era of 24/7 infotainment has outstripped his most apocalyptic predictions about the future of American culture.

    Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture (and by video, I mean every form of digital media, as well as older electronic ones); a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.

    First and foremost among the vectors of the new anti-intellectualism is video. The decline of book, newspaper and magazine reading is by now an old story. The drop-off is most pronounced among the young, but it continues to accelerate and afflict Americans of all ages and education levels.

    Reading has declined not only among the poorly educated, according to a report last year by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book -- fiction or nonfiction -- over the course of a year. The proportion of 17-year-olds who read nothing (unless required to do so for school) more than doubled between 1984 and 2004. This time period, of course, encompasses the rise of personal computers, Web surfing and video games.

    Does all this matter? Technophiles pooh-pooh jeremiads about the end of print culture as the navel-gazing of (what else?) elitists. In his book "Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter," the science writer Steven Johnson assures us that we have nothing to worry about. Sure, parents may see their "vibrant and active children gazing silently, mouths agape, at the screen." But these zombie-like characteristics "are not signs of mental atrophy. They're signs of focus." Balderdash. The real question is what toddlers are screening out, not what they are focusing on, while they sit mesmerized by videos they have seen dozens of times.

    Despite an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at encouraging babies as young as 6 months to watch videos, there is no evidence that focusing on a screen is anything but bad for infants and toddlers. In a study released last August, University of Washington researchers found that babies between 8 and 16 months recognized an average of six to eight fewer words for every hour spent watching videos.

    I cannot prove that reading for hours in a treehouse (which is what I was doing when I was 13) creates more informed citizens than hammering away at a Microsoft Xbox or obsessing about Facebook profiles. But the inability to concentrate for long periods of time -- as distinct from brief reading hits for information on the Web -- seems to me intimately related to the inability of the public to remember even recent news events. It is not surprising, for example, that less has been heard from the presidential candidates about the Iraq war in the later stages of the primary campaign than in the earlier ones, simply because there have been fewer video reports of violence in Iraq. Candidates, like voters, emphasize the latest news, not necessarily the most important news.

    No wonder negative political ads work. "With text, it is even easy to keep track of differing levels of authority behind different pieces of information," the cultural critic Caleb Crain noted recently in the New Yorker. "A comparison of two video reports, on the other hand, is cumbersome. Forced to choose between conflicting stories on television, the viewer falls back on hunches, or on what he believed before he started watching."

    As video consumers become progressively more impatient with the process of acquiring information through written language, all politicians find themselves under great pressure to deliver their messages as quickly as possible -- and quickness today is much quicker than it used to be. Harvard University's Kiku Adatto found that between 1968 and 1988, the average sound bite on the news for a presidential candidate -- featuring the candidate's own voice -- dropped from 42.3 seconds to 9.8 seconds. By 2000, according to another Harvard study, the daily candidate bite was down to just 7.8 seconds.

    The shrinking public attention span fostered by video is closely tied to the second important anti-intellectual force in American culture: the erosion of general knowledge.
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  10. #9 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation.
    Update your spelling and you'll get one or two years of education with no further effort. Maybe even more.
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  11. #10 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
    Forum Sophomore schiz0yd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    It's no secret that the US educational system doesn't do a very good job. Like clockwork, studies show that America's schoolkids lag behind their peers in pretty much every industrialized nation.
    Update your spelling and you'll get one or two years of education with no further effort. Maybe even more.
    What? What does your statement have to do with that quote? I don't see any spelling issues...
    I prefer to use my right brain to study the universe rather than my left brain.
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  12. #11 Re: Art and Wit are Subversive of Civilization; in a ‘Playfu 
    Forum Sophomore LunchBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by Lyn
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    One result of our successful technology is human longevity... It is time to seriously discuss the fact that we cannot continue with the foolish process that results in an ever expanding population that includes an ever expanding percentage of old folks dying slower and slower.
    If you were in charge, where would you start making cuts? Eliminating life support systems might be your best bet, since you get to reduce technology and longevity in one shot.

    I would start with an effort to develop enthusiasm in the nation (America) for learning CT (Critical Thinking). We cannot solve problems one increment at a time. Our failure to develop an educational system that taught people not only what to think but also how to think is fundamental. We cannot reason together effectively unless there is a general confidence in reason.

    Once this first step begins we can turn to the problem of helping adults learn what the domain of knowledge we call "morality" is all about. Presently our primary instruction as to this matter happens only in Sunday school or its general equivalent.

    Basically we must build from the bottom up an intellectually sophisticated population or I am convinced our civilization will surly collapse shortly. Our technology has placed extraordinary power into the hands of very ordinary people. We can no longer afford the luxury of remaining an ordinary naïve people.
    Here's one of the big problems...too many parents are too lazy to be proactive in the lives of their kids. McDonalds every meal, TV, internet, videogames, formula...these are all ways for "parents" to cast aside their children when offered in excess. As a teacher, I can tell you that the majority of our problem lies in appeasment...parents appeasing kids, law makers appeasing a voting base...and all of this is left for the teacher to juggle. I have obligations to a child that refuses to do any work, and the mother never once returns a call, email, or shows up to ask why her child is failing. Other children have parents that give the child anything and everything to avoid conflict...then get angry with me when I hold their child accountable. Still others lash out at me for the very mention of "evolution". We have a diseased parental culture.
    "Let your anger be as a monkey in a pinata, hiding with the candy, hoping the children do not break through with a stick."

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." *Einstein
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by schiz0yd
    In my own opinion, art is the meaning of existence. To create is god-like. Art is also, I believe, the only way to achieve world peace. Also, I think it is interesting to note, at least by my observations, that animal species that are non-violent choose their mates by artistic expression rather than alpha-males violent dominance.
    I think that if we broaden our understanding of art we can better comprehend that we are meaning creating creatures.

    I am convinced that the most important thing that we can learn from the study of art is what it can teach us about our self and how we perceive and conceive the self and the world around us.

    I have been studying Art and Visual Perception by Rudolf Arnheim, Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl, and Abstraction and Empathy by Wilhelm Worringer. These works have been very helpful to my effort to understand why we humans do the things we do.
    ME TOO :d
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