Endangered Minds
Much has been written recently on the "dumbing down" of American education. Our textbooks are easier, lectures are shorter, worksheets have replaced term papers and, although standardized tests have become easier, test scores have dropped or showed only slight improvements. Homeschoolers and critics of public education are not the only ones to notice. Teachers have been lamenting this trend for years. In her book, Endangered Minds, Dr. Jane M. Healy shares comments from the hundreds of educators she has spoken with.
I used to be able to teach Scarlet Letter to my juniors; now that amount of reading is a real chore for them and they have more trouble following the plot.

Ten years ago I gave my students materials and they were able to figure out the experiment. Now I have to walk them through the activities step by step. I don't do as much science because of their frustration level.

I've been hoping someone would notice! I've been worried about this for some time. Kids' abilities are certainly different--I use with gifted sixth graders a lot of what I did with the average fifth graders in '65-66. They complain of the workload.
And then comes the ominous warning:
Teachers of the youngest children, claiming they see more pronounced changes every year, warned that we haven't seen anything yet.
It is clear that graduates today are not capable of the same kinds of higher-order thinking tasks as graduates of decades past. But is this a direct result of the "dumbing down" of the curriculum, or is the "dumbing down" of the curriculum a reaction to the decreased abilities of today's students? And why is it that kindergarteners are already showing decreased attention spans and lower reasoning capabilities?

I'll give you a hint: PBS Kids, Nick, jr., and Cartoon Network, just for starters. According to the American Time Use Survey, the average American spends 2 1/2 hours per day watching television. Preschoolers actually watch more...a staggering four hours per day. The sex and violence regularly presented to these developing minds is only half the concern. Within 30 seconds of turning on the television, the viewer's critical reasoning turns off.

How much of an effect is our media driven culture having on our youth? Take a look inside any high school and the effects become apparent. And the future? I shudder to think about it, but doesn't it look eerily like Fahrenheit 451?

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