Progressive Push for Wide-Spread Ignorance

On the latest Bill Whittle Firewall video, which he has whimsically named “The Struggle for Stupidity”, he discusses one of Jerry Pournelle’s projects:

From the notes this on the YouTube page:

Sci-Fi Author Jerry Pournelle recently re-published a sixth grade reader from 1914. In his latest FIREWALL, Bill Whittle explains how full comprehension of a single paragraph from that hundred-year-old elementary school textbook eludes virtually all of today’s college graduates; shows why it is such a sin, and reveals the Progressive Struggle for Stupidity in all of its undeniable venality.

Here is Pournelle’s book: California Sixth Grade Reader

If you can’t afford it, I recommend taking a look at the Kindle free sample to get the flavor of the reader just to get an idea of how much we have lost.

As home-schooling parents we were fortunate: we got to choose the future Baron’s reading. But after our initial introduction, he proved the point that left to their own devices children will often choose things you would consider “too advanced” for them. For example, the fB found a book on the World War I poets in one of our bookcases and he soon had much of it memorized. Obviously, he was intelligent, but no more so than his friends. Many of those friends — e.g., Cub Scout troop members — went to the local school and the last thing in the world they wanted was to have to read something.

Many kids will like Pournelle’s choice, at least if you get them young enough, before being with the kewl kids is their summum bonum. The home-schooled kids have the best chance, especially if they don’t have a TV.

Parents who don’t have the choice to homeschool could look into Hirsch’s compendium:

The New First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Your Child Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch, Professor of English, Published by Mariner Books Revised edition (2004) Paperback

It’s fun to read together and a good starting point for acquiring texts your child will never see otherwise as he is further dumbed down by the Marxist cabal running that federal level Common Core curriculum from which some states are opting out in disgust. Not only is it regimented, it is difficult to use — or so say many teachers. Bill Gates, well-meaning dupe, is “helping” them get this thing off the ground.

16 thoughts on “Progressive Push for Wide-Spread Ignorance

  1. I recently read a children’s book from the 1860s, “The Water Babies” by Charles Kingsley. It is loaded with those massive sentences which have tempo shifts like music; slowed down and started up again by semicolons.

    People today are puzzled by the semicolon… unless they need to put a winky face at the end of a particularly “clever” sentence (as, otherwise, you might not know that it’s clever).

    Another book I read (or TRIED to read) was the first “Jack Reacher.” It’s a ghastly affair, impossible for me to wade through, and overloaded with sentence fragments.

    “He loaded his gun. Checked his watch. Looked down the street.”

    Damn! What a complete loss of language! I cannot suffer through a whole book of that! It’s just not worth the headache! “Checked his watch” is NOT a sentence!

    • Those mid-19th century books were meant to be read aloud. Reading was a family affair – or at the very least something the governess did with the children. If I remember correctly it had wonderful illustrations.

      Not familiar with “Jack Reacher” but I do get free books from Kindle and the modern ones are pretty awful; there are exceptions especially with an author interested in doing historical fiction.

      That short-phrase sentence is a riff off some famous style or other. It should have died with its originators.

      • Jack Reacher is a new thing. (Tom Cruise just did the movie version last year.)

        The writing is horrendous and unforgivable.

        • Dickens controversially, and arrestingly, began “Bleak House” with a series of phrases, but he didn’t continue throughout the whole novel!

          • Ha! I’m laughing because “Bleak House” is one of my most hated books!

            I was irate when I visited poet’s corner at Westminster and saw a teeny-tiny stone marked “Thomas Hardy” and a massive one next to it that read “Dickens!” Ah, the injustice of this world!

  2. have the children read Shakespeare, aloud, and try to act it out. Julius Caesar can be tons of fun. There are also Romeo and Juliet (based on Tristam & Shandy) and The Merchant of Venice. In those three plays alone are the bulk of our clichés.
    Of course if your children try to share what they have learned, such as saying to a beau, “parting is such sweet sorrow,” they will quickly discover just how culturally deprived the majority of the population is.
    My favorite has always been Marc Antony’s eulogy over Julius Caesar’s body. Marc really lays on the sarcasm. 🙂

    • I’ll say. It’s also fun to take categories. For example, compare all the parents in Shakespeare. From Polonius to Juliette’s daddy to Coriolanus’ witch mother to Juliette’s dad as a dirty old man. I did a short paper on the latter and my professor said it was very twisted and very fine. I didn’t ask for a clarification of “fine”…

    • There are AMAZING speeches in the so-called “not so good” plays, like Henry VIII (when Buckingham is going to his death! “When the long divorce of steel falls on me!”) and Troilus & Cressida.

  3. I think there is far more to it than blaming the electronic media. Whittle, good that he is, always carefully dances around problems of race, IQ, immigration and, in this case, the PURPOSEFUL dumbing down of white Americans to mutate equal opportunity into equal outcome, with lesser but nevertheless noticeable lowering of standards in European education too, partly for the same reason. Other reasons, indubitably, are to mold a simple sheeple amenable to consumer behavior manipulation through expertly crafted peddling messages, i.e. advertising, and to subvert the democratic process by turning out K-12 and college grad morons unable to discern propaganda, hidden agendas in the MSM, prostitution of the language for political ends, emotion trumping reason — a game mastered by Palestinians and our own “anti-fascists/ anti-racists” — and so on.

    If you really want to know how far we have regressed, try to take this HARVARD admission test from 1869. That’s admission, not graduation:

    • Takuan,

      As much as I admire you, the fact that I would flub the test, likely, is not as depressing to me as to you, perhaps. In the first place, I don’t know Greek or Latin, and have no desire to learn. That’s about a third of the test.

      In the second place, some of the language is just vague.
      “Bound the basic of the Po….” Does that mean, describe the bounding states, the surrounding towns? Who knows?

      “Leonides, Posanias, Lysander”. That’s the complete question. Any idea what it means?

      “Find by logarithms, using arithmetical complements….” I think arithmetical complements are a method more known then than now, except in binary numbers, which I don’t think is applicable.

      In point of fact, if tests like that were the criteria to get into Harvard, I’m sure there would be eager corps of young, ambitious entrants cramming for just such questions. I’m not sure it would raise the quality of our society all that much.

      Let me posit a different hypothesis: the ability of the population to actually influence the government is being systematically reduced. Probably the most important way to create independent politicians is to allow unlimited contributions directly to politician’s campaigns by individuals. Granted, Bill Gates and George Soros would be happy to completely fund socialists, but there are also conservative entrepreneurs who would gladly fund conservatives or classic liberals. A politician would merely have to find a financial angel by a real philosophical appeal, and would be freed of a lot of the scut work of raising campaign money. This alone would raise the quality of politicians considerably.

      Add to that other obviously non-democratic factors such as gerrymandering, proportional representation, the elimination of proof of citizenship, and you can see the deterioration of the representational government on which our country is based. I’m not so sure things would be so bad if the people had a real voice, especially those people productive enough to have a couple of hundred million lying around for the support of quality candidates.

      • How about this as an alternative: Each candidate, of whatever level, is limited to 10,00 dollars per campaign. Sure the crooks would immediately figure a work-around, but we could be ducks stamping out those forest fires…

        …I’m not well enough to respond to your other ideas…but you have well-delineated the problems…thank you

        BTW, the ability of the little guys to get heard is now gone. Totally. Which is why intelligent young people will limit their vote to local elections and let the feds do a slow collapse.

        • Hi Dympha,

          Let me express my profound admiration to you and the Baron for creating such a stimulating and informative and absolutely necessary website. You have done so much with so little.

          Let me respond to your proposition of limiting the spending of the candidates. I have exactly the opposite view: let them spend as much as they can pull in. Studies have shown there is a limiting factor to money. I would like candidates to not have to spend inordinate amounts of time getting campaign funds, particularly the more intelligent candidates. I suspect that there is a systematic selection against political candidates with a thoughtful approach to issues. Most candidates have to spend all their hours soliciting funds.

          We desperately need responsiveness and thoughtfulness in our political classes. Edmund Burke showed the contradiction, by saying

          “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

          and by being singularly unsuccessful at actually exerting political influence.

          • From this side of the Pond, our system of limits on candidates’ spending does level the playing field a bit, compared with the US.

  4. What a pleasant surprise, thank you for the discovery! I enjoyed Jerry Pournelle’s “hard SF” stories when I was young, now there is something entirely new to connect with that since almost forgotten name. Some English teachers I know shall get a link and hopefully become interested.

  5. I tried reading the first story in the reader sample on Amazon, the excerpt from “The Argonauts”, and I have to say, it left me cold. I could have finished it, but chose not to, as it wasn’t all that interesting.

    Also, if you look up an explanation of the Common Core, such as

    you’ll see that Common Core is a set of standards, to be implemented at the state discretion, and not a mandate on classroom content. So, Bill Whittle has his own comprehension problems when he speaks Common Core making it illegal to speak about certain subjects in the classroom.

    The problem with education today is that there are genetic differences between groups of people, including intelligence, and you’re just not going to be able to get the same proportion of blacks, inbred Muslims, and Latins having high academic achievements as whites or (some) Asians. The largest educational abuses come from the attempts to equalize results as well as opportunity.

    Also, the medical advances available today insure that damaged children, including those whose brains have been damaged by the drug abuse of the mother, now live to child-bearing age themselves. This contributes to the number of low-intelligence, low-achieving children, and has nothing to do with our educational system.

    Furthermore, the low-intelligence, low-achieving, likely dysfunctional children grow up to have a vote completely equal in every way to someone who objectively researches the different election options. And, our campaign laws increasingly forbid large contributions by individuals directly to a political candidate, one of the only ways to ensure the predominance of intelligence.

    I’ve worked with recent graduates and young people in a business and technical setting, and found them to be highly intelligent, competent, and interested in what’s around them. Of course, the people I saw were a highly selected group, but that’s the whole point. The educational system itself has a limited ability to change people’s inherited characteristics. Any attempt to equalize outcomes based on preconceived notions is likely to be extremely harmful.

  6. IQ and Global Inequality: Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen …

    We address the following questions. First, in Chapter 1, we review the major theories of economic growth that have been developed since this problem was considered by Charles de Montesquieu and Adam Smith in the eighteenth century and introduce the 192 countries of this study.

    In Chapter 2 we define and describe what is meant by intelligence.

    In Chapter 3, we summarize work showing that intelligence is a determinant of incomes and related phenomena (educational attainment and socio-economic status) among individuals in a number of countries; this is the basis of our theory that the intelligence of national populations is likely to be a determinant of per capita incomes among nations.

    Chapter 4 describes how we have collected and quantified the IQs of nations and presents new IQ data for a further 32 nations. This brings the total number of nations for which we have measured IQs to 113.
    In addition, national IQs are estimated for 79 other countries so that we have IQs for all countries with populations of more than 40,000.

    In Chapter 5, five measures of the quality of human conditions and their composite index (QHC) are introduced as well as 12 alternative variables that measure human conditions from different perspectives.

    In Chapter 6, the hypothesis on the positive relationship between national IQ and the quality of human conditions is tested by empirical evidence on PPP GNI (Gross National Income at Purchasing Power Parity) per capita in 2002, adult literacy rate in 2002, tertiary enrollment ratio, life expectancy at birth in 2002, and the level of democratization in 2002.

    Chapter 7 focuses on the relationship between national IQ and the composite index of the quality of human conditions (QHC) The results are analysed at the level of single countries on the basis of regression analyses. The results are checked by exploring the impact of latitude and annual mean temperature on human conditions through national IQ.

    Chapter 8 shows that national IQ is correlated also with many other variables that measure differences in human conditions from different perspectives. Twelve alternative variables are used in these analyses.

    Chapter 9 discusses the contributions of genetic and environmental determinants to national differences in intelligence and concludes that the racial identity of the population is the major factor.

    Chapter 10 considers the causal interactions between our most important

    Chapter 11 (Criticisms and Rejoinders) discusses and responds to the criticisms made of our theory by reviewers. Finally, we summarize the results and conclusions of this study in

    Chapter 12 and discuss policy implications.

    Five appendices complement the text. In Appendix 1, the calculation of national IQs for 113 countries is presented and documented. Appendix 2 includes documented empirical data on the adult literacy rate in 2002, the gross enrollment ratio at the tertiary level of education, PPP GNI per capita in US dollars in 1002, and the life expectancy at birth in 2002 for the total group of 192 countries. Appendix 3 provides documented data on the measures of democracy, of the calculated values of the Index of the Quality of Human Conditions (QHC), and of latitude and annual mean temperature. Appendix 4 includes residuals of regression analyses of the five components of QHC on national IQ for single countries in the group of 192 countries. Appendix 5 provides estimated data on per capita GDP derived from Maddison (2003) for 1500 and 2000 in a group of 109 countries.”


    Syria: IQ 87
    Afghanistan: IQ 83
    Somalia: IQ 68
    Eritrea: IQ 68
    Europe: IQ 101
    Sweden: today totale political idiocy + future genetically induced low IQ due to ongoing massimmigration from NENA & Subsahara countries + internarrige.

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