A Modest Analysis of Stupidity at Large

Updated on July 14, 2018
Sam Wickstrom profile image

Sam has paid attention to the sharp decline in literacy among other tragic statistics.

* I can't hear you *
* I can't hear you *

You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.

— Doris Lessing on Schooling


Our education system is a complete failure. Everyone is going around saying how important it is to educate our kids, and make sure the poor have access to quality education. But what do we really mean? Do we mean that we should change our system of education entirely? Well no, usually we mean to apathetically throw some tax dollars at the public schools and let them do what they will.

People graduate from high school without strong reading and writing skills. It's a sure sign that our society is falling into an intellectual void. Sure graduates may have lost their virginity, and granted that's not an insignificant achievement, dropping panties and all that, but their literacy and debate/critical thinking skills are severely lacking. So many kids are coming out of public schools with hardly anything to show for it. We essentially force kids to go to school so that they can finish and get a piece of paper that might as well say they're not retarded. But shouldn't we be aiming a little higher than that? If school was effective in educating kids it wouldn't take 12 god damn years to get them through. The real problem is that most kids don't even enjoy school, but they love learning. Why is that? Well because the longer they're in school the more they resent it, the less freedom they have the more stress they feel. When you're conditioned for over a decade to relate learning with stress, you're going to finish your education and have nothing but an aversion to learning.

So why are people so anxious when it comes to talks about religion or politics? Well because they haven't learned to critically think or debate, and they've been conditioned to relate learning with stress.

I urge you to examine in your own mind the assumptions which must lay behind using the police power to insist that once-sovereign spirits have no choice but to submit to being schooled by strangers.

— John Gatto


Another very serious psychological problem I've noticed in society is people's fear of arguments and debate. People relate the word argument to fighting. People tend to see arguments and debates as actually brawls. Subconsciously people have related debate to stress. So you'll see people talking about how they had an argument with their spouse or their kid, their friend, or whoever, and you'll notice that they're stressed out about it. As a society we don't know how to have productive arguments, to us, arguments trigger our natural flight or fight response. This has always left me curious, where can we find the source of this highly irrational fear of argumentation?

At first, they'll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they'll dislike you.

— Criss Jami


People are afraid of escalation. Why are people afraid of escalation in arguments, debates, and the exchange of ideas? Well think back to when you were growing up. Let's imagine you're having an argument with your teacher and you prove him or her wrong in front of the whole class, or you're talking to your parents and you prove that their reasoning is faulty, well it's likely that in those times the situation would escalate. The teacher might yell at you to leave the class, or your parents might say you're "talking back" or "being rude" and they don't want to get "attitude" from you. Does any of this sound familiar? Well for most of you it should. In this society of homo sapiens we tend to have a strict hierarchy and when it is willfully broken and shown to be fragile people get upset. My point with all this is that people have been conditioned to subconsciously fear learning, debate, and argumentation. The exchange of ideas itself is made stressful through the operant conditioning of schools and parents, whether it is intentional or not. There are potentially life long effects when conditioning developing minds.

He who establishes his argument by noise and command, shows that his reason is weak.

— Michel de Montaigne

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser

— Socrates

Fundamentals in History

So why exactly are people afraid of debate, learning, exchanging ideas, and discussing things of substance? Well I'm sure our answer can be found deep in the field of evolutionary biology. We were not modern humans for so long. Our brains are built on a tribal way of life, heavily relying on those around us, and relating ostracism with death. Take for example the Aztecs sacrificing a person to the gods. Imagine you are a member of this tribe. You could exercise a little critical thinking and statistical analysis and point out that removing the beating heart of your friend doesn't have the strongest correlation with the quality of the harvest. Speaking up about that will likely mean you will be heavily ostracized, you won't be able to reproduce, and you might even be banished from the tribe. This kind of tribal thinking is built into our heads. That's why your palms get sweaty when you speak up about a substantial idea relating to the whole tribe or society.

Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Modern Research

A study on a phenomenon called the 'Spiral of Silence' found a number of striking truths about the nature of our fear of substance, debate, learning, and so on. The study took 1,801 adults and it focused on one important public issue: Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of widespread government surveillance of Americans’ phone and email records. They used that issue because Americans were cut in half on the issue. The study found that we are far less willing to discuss pertinent issues when our work colleagues, family, and friends are able to listen in, we are afraid of ostracism. As I pointed out earlier, this is a very excellent safeguard to increase short term survival and reproduction.

The study found:

  • 86% of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the surveillance program, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to post about it on those platforms.
  • In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them.
  • Previous ‘spiral of silence’ findings as to people’s willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users.

Understanding The Pandemic of Stupidity

Questions & Answers


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      • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Wickstrom 

        3 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

        Interesting thoughts. I would have to say I agree, things seem to be simplified to much in the case of individual rights, and often the rights are arbitrary rather than objective. You might find this video interesting https://youtu.be/vQYRM6jAvnI

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        If I was a Poltician and they asked me for my opinion on abortion. I would tell them my opinion did not matter because I represent people. I would not tell a woman who has been raped to carry a child to term or choose the childs life over hers. Since the decision was determined at the Supreme Court why would I fight for something I do not have the power to change at this moment. Pre-term, Post term I would want to see the facts and I would know one answer does not answer all quetions. There is no simple answer to all possibilities but Individual rights are what we up-hold and the only quetion is what rights do unborn children have? What rights do men have, do we not force them to pay child support and jail them when we do not. Is child support becoming the new welfare state? The problem is individual rights are we dividing everyone and making things worst or finding a way to protect everyone with mutual rights to live in accordance to life and liberty.

      • Sam Wickstrom profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Wickstrom 

        3 years ago from High River, AB, Canada

        You're right, knowledge is useless without consistent application. You might find the book Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto interesting.

        I've noticed the word agenda is being used to systematically repress people who have a real desire for change in the world, even when their 'agenda' is in the interest of improving the lives of the most people possible.

        In terms of individual rights I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at. Do you mean that rather than having principles to argue from, people are using feelings to argue for their preferences in terms of individual rights in the case of abortion, same sex marriage etc?

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        First of all people do not know how to argue. To argue you have to know how to solve problems. To solve problems you need to find the facts and the World today believes you must have an agenda to solve a problem. You do not need an agenda to identify a problem or to solve it. Imigration is a problem, taxes is a problem in a bankrupt nation, individual rights are a problem for everyone, why are we fighting each problem with individual rights one at a time? Why is the law different for other people? Why do we need different agendas if the law is the same for all people. The biggest problem with education is its lack of real world applicationsin the use of what they learn. There are test that use your knowledge to solve a series of problems and 4 year college graduates can not pass the test. People who had to survive on their own by whatever means or had a life of problem solving often do incredibly well.


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