Posts Tagged ‘Libraries’

The dumbing down of America, cont.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

23D7DF21-4B50-483A-9B07-30BAFB25EA37    “Do you know who fought in the Civil War?”

    “The French and the Germans?“

     “How did you know that?

     “I took history.“

     Wait, there’s more.

      “When was the war of 1812 fought?”

      “The 1980s?”

       “Who was America’s first president?”

       “His first name was George. I don’t know the last.”

        “Can you name the continents?”

        “The USA?”

         “Can you name another one?”

          “Puerto Rico?”

          “How many inches in a foot?”

          “One?”

          “Do you know what state Utah is in?”

          “Illinois?”

         “How many stars in the American flag?”

          “One hundred?”

          “What is Obama’s last name?”

           “Care. C-a-r-e.”

      OK, enough torture. The preceding was an example of the continuing dumbing down of America, brought to you courtesy of a well-spoken, pleasant young man on Facebook, who simply asks questions of mostly high-school-age Americans in Times Square and malls in and around New York and New Jersey.

       No, it’s not entertaining and he does his best not to make fun of the unbelievably clueless contestants who clearly haven’t paid a lot of attention in history, math, science and other courses in school. I’m not even sure geography and civics are even taught anymore.

       Most of the “contestants” are young people of various ethnicities, although some older folks manage to show up with interesting answers as well. And clearly, he doesn’t show people who know all the answers, but far too many don’t know any of the correct answers.

        I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the American education system is in crisis. Too many young people don’t know things that used to be considered basic information you learned if you got through high school. Worse, too many adults seem interested in keeping it that way.

      Teachers are being told what they can teach, librarians are being told what they can have on their shelves. Too many young people are getting whatever information they get via social media. (One young lady could name all the Kardashians.)

       I’ve written about this before and it’s depressing for me to belabor the subject, but I don’t see much change for the better.

        People who know stuff today get mocked by perhaps the dumbest person to ever occupy the Oval Office and his cadre of obedient/frightened followers.

      But it didn’t start with Donald Trump. The Tea Partiers, having been warmly welcomed into the Republican Party, got to John McCain in 2012 and made him choose Sarah Palin, who said she can see Russia from her home in Alaska, as his vice presidential running mate. It’s been all downhill ever since.

      The Republican Party doesn’t have the numbers to out vote the Democratic Party, so, in addition to lying and cheating and trying to steal elections, it needs an uneducated citizenry that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and, worse, doesn’t seem to care.

        People, we need to rethink what we’re teaching and rededicate resources to our public schools. Young people, especially those of voting age, need to know that what’s at stake in this year‘s presidential election is their very future.

      So that when some young guy with a microphone asks them in the shopping mall, “When do they celebrate the Fourth of July in England?” they don’t say, as one young man did, “The day after us.”

    Because of the time zones, of course.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

            

          

What Banned Books Have You Read?

Sunday, October 1st, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Banned books

Banned books

Well, it’s here again, the annual reminder that, in the Land of Free Speech, people — school boards, politicians, religious groups, censorship groups, individuals — are still trying, and sometimes succeeding, in preventing others from reading books containing other people’s free speech which they find offensive or objectionable for some reason.

    It’s Banned Books Week (Oct. 1-7), an unfortunately necessary tradition the American Library Association began in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

    Fueled by the MAGAmania fear promoted by Donald Trump and those wishing to supplant him as leader of the Republican cult, efforts to control what books teachers use to teach, what books libraries can keep on their shelves have increased significantly.

     In announcing the week, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, “This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”

   How bad is it? The association says it documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number since the organization began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The number nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. The association says most of the titles targeted were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous and people of color.

   No surprise there. Traditionally specific reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language.

     Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seeking to supplant Trump as Republican Party leader, has been aggressive in efforts to control what his state residents can read and what universities can teach, but Texas also has not been shy about attempting censorship. And a school district in North Carolina actually tried to ban Banned Book Week this year only to reverse its decision when it was reported in the news media.

   As someone who has made a living writing opinions that some might not agree with, I feel compelled to once again argue for the right of free speech and free access to whatever people want to read. Controlling what people read is, after all, a way to control how they think. And, yes, it’s a way those who lie try to hide the truth from others.

    My practice has been to list, in no particular order, banned books I have read. It’s compiled from a few lists I have found on the Internet and includes some books I had no idea were ever the target of attempted banning. 

The list:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     As always, I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. I didn’t get much response to this request last year, but, forever the optimist, I ask again. I could use some new titles.

     We are living in a time when ignorance runs rampant in much of the country. Indeed, it often seems glorified. Reading, in fact learning of any sort, is under attack by groups who seek to maintain power by discrediting education. 

   Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear repeated claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News, even though recently shown in court to be a wellspring of phony news and propaganda, is still full of outright lies. 

   It is all nonsense, created out of fear, Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of losing power, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start.

       By the way, “Captain Underpants” is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of books on the list  were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

    And, please, share your favorite banned books with us.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.