Are we dumbing down our nation?

box 1

box 2

“What are those?” I ask our guide. We’re in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul in a room filled with boxes, some inlaid with mother of pearl or tortoise shell, others encrusted with precious gems. My first thought is jewelry boxes that once belonged to the ladies of the harem.

“They’re scribes’ boxes,” Ziya says. He points out the slots specially designed for the pens and the little bowl indents that that held the ink looking rather like a miniature carton for eggs.


I’m a teacher and I can’t stop thinking about those boxes. Reading and writing, once highly prized skills, now taken for granted. I look around my classroom. I love my students and we have fun, but do they really care about learning? As principal, I wander in and out of other classrooms; bemoan the seeming lack of interest despite the excellent teaching strategies and effort to engage the students’ interest. I wonder where the curiosity went. I remember the student who sat forward in her desk, the epitome of bright eyed and eager. Why do I only remember one in all the years of teaching?

I listen to parents in my office. Their eagerness to blame the teacher alarms and saddens me. What has happened to suffering the consequences of your actions? Some parents expect a babysitting service and don’t want to be bothered by calls home. Some are obsessed with marks, but seem to care little for the actual learning. Some are genuinely interested in performance results. Their children do well with that parental support.

I watch “teacher/school” movies and cringe at most of them. As John Brantingham says in his blog on Venture Galleries –, “the clichés put forth in them make me think the general public has no idea what teachers go through.”

I read the reports about the latest salary negotiations. Yes, teachers have to live and eat and pay bills just like anyone else, but you would think they were robbing the bank when they ask for a raise. And I moan when the government announces yet another education budget cut.

I’m constantly frustrated by the shortsightedness of our society when it comes to public education. Teachers are the ones who get everyone started. Without them (and Dick and Jane) our world would be illiterate. Where would we then find our doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs?

Are we dumbing down our nation? I ask the question in all seriousness. Yes, we have computers and technology, instant methods of communication, and ebooks galore. We are rich in so many ways and live  a pampered lifestyle compared to much of the world, but as a society, I don’t believe we value education as we should. Will this become our greatest downfall?


12 comments on “Are we dumbing down our nation?

  1. A sad commentary on our times. As an employment counsellor, I find employers are demanding higher education all the time for potential hires. So why is more emphasis not made on putting more money into education instead of less? I’m confused.

  2. If parents would teach their children about respect and manners and have some form of discipline, then teachers would not have such a hard time teaching. When students will act out or not behave then a teacher’s time is spent with trying to get them to listen and not on teaching.

    • When I was a kid I didn’t dare tell my parents when I got into trouble at school as I knew I would be in even more trouble at home. That often doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays.

      • The schools where I teach chess as an after-school enrichment program are extraordinarily well-off schools in extraordinarily well-off school districts, yet they only go to school from around 9:00 to noon, maybe 1:00. What’s with that? I went to school, K-12, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and we had the three R’s as well as art, orchestra, choir, band, sports, etc. I worry about this up and coming generation but maybe they will surprise us.

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