Yes, People Really Are That Dumb: Why I Don’t Want to Live to 100

We’ve all laughed about the dumbing down of America. Every time we see a post where adults are consistently unclear about the differences between to, too, and two or your and you’re, we roll our eyes and decide to either chide them or automatically discount everything they said. If we know or like them, we cringe inside and hope it was just a slight oversight or the result of errant autocorrect.

Well, last week, I think either the gods of ignorance were out to haunt me or I was being tested by the universe because I seemed to encounter, online and in-person, an abnormal amount of people who apparently only learned basic educational lessons long enough for the quiz and afterwards, kissed the knowledge goodbye (kind of like I did with calculus).

The week began with me having to tell an editorial assistant (I guess) that actually most of the words in a title do, indeed, need to be capitalized and no, it’s not true that words four letters and under don’t need to be capitalized. I’m not certain why this wasn’t understood, but this person was content to post my content with a title that looked like a ransom demand where the letters were cut at random out of a magazine. I was annoyed, of course, because instead of taking my writer word for it, I actually received flack for wanting this very obvious mistake corrected before it was posted under my name. I low-key had to fight for that shit to the extent of screenshotting another random article as an example. Imagine!

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But, I was even more annoyed by the fact that someone reached full adult age and made their way into an editorial position fully believing that what they did was correct. Despite the fact that they’ve seen books, articles, e-articles, and periodicals throughout their life (I’m sure), they chose to believe that all those publications were wrong and they were correct.

How?

Then, there was this Twitter exchange about Prince Harry and Prince William where someone didn’t know the difference between the words “princes” (as in the plural form of “prince”) and “princess.” This person vigorously defended their poor understanding of 2nd grade grammar.

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I won’t tell you the number of people I, as a Texan, encounter who don’t seem to be able to rationalize “signal, brake, turn” in favor of “sudden brake, start turn, signal.”

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This goes beyond the comical “lack toast and tolerant” (lactose intolerant) gaffe that was made on Twitter a few years back. I mean, I don’t really understand how people have perhaps the largest database at their fingers yet seem to constantly mess theses things up, but I chalked that one up to a teen trying their hardest (God help us) to explain a medical condition they had only heard of but not seen on paper.

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I truly believe this is a foretelling of where the country is headed when its citizens increasingly cannot comprehensively read and write correctly in their native language. Further, the fact that intellectual processing speeds seem to have slowed at least 75% since I was in high school is frankly frightening. When I think about the fact that intellect and common sense never bears weight on reproductive functioning, I feel like we’re headed into a real-life Alfred Hitchcock/Stephen King type of situation.

So, to all my friends who have long-term plans of being in a rocking chair with their great-grandchildren, mazel tov. Not me. If we keep going down this path, I see myself begging for a quick death and hoping the person who makes my headstone knows how to spell.

 

 

 

Plot Twist: The Internet Isn’t Just For Arguing

Mucous. Feces. Urine. Flatulence. Purulent.

All of these words are the technical names for words that we use in our everyday speech in a colloquial way.

Most of us know this. Most of us know that the colloquialisms we use in place of these words aren’t the actual or technical terms for these things. Most of know that if we were in a classroom or seminar where any of these things were broached (another word for brought up), they’d likely not be referred to by their colloquial names, but by their technical names.

So, you can imagine my befuddlement (that’s another word for confusion) when I came across the following graphic (that’s another word for picture) on my Facebook timeline.

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I clawed (another word for scratch) my tegument (another word for scalp) and wondered if we are really at the point now where academic language in an academic textbook used in an academic setting is “pretentious” and “inaccessible.”

Let’s start with pretentious. No. It’s an ACADEMIC textbook. Those of us who know about code-switching understand that you don’t present yourself the same way in all settings. When you go in for an interview, you shake the interviewer’s hand, you don’t hug them or fist bump them.

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In a book on language arts, you aren’t going to get, “Timmy was chillaxin’ on the block with his homies when his mama told him to bring his narrow behind inside.”

Sure, that may be how the writer of the textbook speaks when he or she is at home around their friends and family but since the purpose of a language arts textbook is to apprise (another word for inform) the reader of standard English grammar, the writer instead offers, “Timmy was relaxing with his friends outside of his house, when his mother angrily demanded that he come back inside.”

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Pretentious would be me talking to my friend and telling her that I was clawing my tegument.

Inaccessible? Well, I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption that if you end up in college-level physiology, you have an above-average reading and comprehension level. Further, we live in an era that has thesaurus.com and dictionary.com and both are accessible, literally at your fingertips.

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We are fortunate enough to live in an era where you can Google almost anything and before you can blink your eyes twice, 92387877499937489 results of varying degrees on the topic you Googled will populate before your eyes.

Does that makeup for systemic inequalities in education? No. But let’s not overplay this thing either. If you need information, you can find it for free these days.

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Now, here’s the part that I’m known for: shade.

I will never not laugh at this generation who will engage in days-long debates with strangers over -ist, -phobic, gender, agender, sex, asexual, demisexual, pre-sexual, post-sexual, he, she, ze, thee, thou, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, tall privilege, short privilege, etc…

but want to boo-hoo and tee-hee because an ACADEMIC textbook uses ACADEMIC words to explain ACADEMIC concepts (another word for thought or idea).

How sway? Just like you found a resource to convince you that men can have periods and babies, you can figure out what that word you’re not familiar with means.

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Matter of fact, in the time it took you to read and (somehow) agree with that pitiful tweet, you could have looked up what you didn’t understand in your textbook…or, you know, asked someone.

Priorities.

For The People Who Think School Was Supposed To Teach Them Everything

This week, I saw an unusual amount of memes that all had to do with what school failed to teach people and what school should have taught people. These lists ranged anywhere from budget planning to taking out loans to community economic development.

It wasn’t the first time I had seen these types of memes. I mean, since about 2014, we’ve been bombarded with memes of people whining about all the shit that they never learned. Even the common sense stuff like making appointments appears to have escaped people (which is not necessarily a surprise considering the fact that if common sense were a stock, most people would perpetually be in the bear market). 

When I see these memes, I just have one question, though.

What about your parents?

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But let me back up though and address this particular meme.

  1. Private school doesn’t teach you a lot of this stuff either. I went to private school. There’s no extra special secret curriculum.
  2. Reading and understanding laws? Well, the reading part is kind of a no-brainer. Reading comprehension is actually taught starting 1st or 2nd grade. If you don’t understand what you’ve read, be it laws or anything else, you can always ask.
  3. I literally took a health and or biology class (or had the curriculum) every year from Pre-K through 12th grade. In Pre-K, it’s talking about brushing your teeth and eating vegetables. It gets more sophisticated as you get older. Don’t blame school for your cavities and cholesterol.
  4. At what point would starting a business fit into general education when that’s not something that most people will ever do? That’s one of those things experiencing life will help you learn if that’s the road you choose.
  5. Investing? That was covered in that easy class you took senior year called “Math of Money” or (by the time I was a senior) “Math Models.”
  6. Filing a lawsuit? Again, most people will never need to file a lawsuit. However, there are clerks at the courthouse. You simply walk up to them and say, “I’m interested in filing a lawsuit” and they will point you in the right direction.
  7. How to avoid taxes? I won’t even touch that one but to say most adults don’t even know how to do that so I don’t know why anyone would think that would make it into a general curriculum.
  8. Self-defense? Ask your parents to take karate.
  9. Build guns? You really think we need to be teaching school-aged children how to build guns when they can’t even be trusted to not be on their smartphone during a lecture? Okay. Ask your uncle Festus.
  10. Reading vaccine inserts? There’s that reading thing again. I’ve never had a problem reading anything because…I can read.
  11. Federal Reserve creation? Do you honestly care? Honestly? C’mon! You can be…honest!
  12. Propaganda? Well, that’s interesting because after first learning what propaganda was, I was able to identify it quite easily. We also talked about it in social studies (elementary) and history right around the time we discussed Hitler.
  13. Government cover-ups? Watch Netflix documentaries.

As an aside, it’s funny that people talk about how none of us needs two rounds of algebra in the real world (shout out to the engineers, math teachers, scientists, etc.) but somehow, this meme-maker seems to think we all really need to know how to build guns and that if the government wants to kill us, they’ll make it look like an accident.

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At some point, we have to stop blaming an underfunded, overcrowded educational system for not teaching you EVERY SINGLE THING you ended up needing to know in adulthood.

One, you have parents for a reason. All those times your mom told you that you couldn’t do or get something because your parents couldn’t afford it? That was your exposure to the budgeting lesson you think someone who makes $50k/year, is responsible for 200 students, and is actually a veritable stranger to you was supposed to teach you.

Two, you presumably have a brain. How to make a doctor’s appointment? You call the doctor you want to see, and when the receptionist answers the phone, you say, “Hello, I’d like to make an appointment to see Dr. _____.” Then, you answer whatever questions she may have. Don’t forget your insurance card.

It really is that simple. I wouldn’t lie to you. There are even healthcare providers that allow you to set appointments online. If you can order pizza, you can make a doctor’s appointment.

Loans? You read and ask questions. If you don’t understand, ask more questions until you do understand. You can even ask for a tentative payment schedule that forecasts what you’ll end up owing and how much the loan will cost you in the long run. Then, you sign or decline.

Budgeting? Mathematics + common sense. So, if you bring home $2,700/mo., your rent is $1,000/mo., your utilities equal $700/mo., and your commuting costs add up to $500/mo., and your groceries are $400/mo., no, the newest $350 Apple gadget probably isn’t a good idea because life has a way of surprising us and that Apple gadget isn’t a roof. You see, budgeting isn’t really about whether or not you physically have the money as much as whether or not it makes sense to spend it on certain things.

But, if 2016 taught me anything, it’s that poor people deserve nice things.

Anywho….

Thirdly, and I mentioned this on my personal FB page once, some of y’all are hard-headed and don’t pay attention to anything. Some of y’all had really good teachers who taught you way more than they were obligated to but you were passing notes, skipping class, or doing a bunch of other irrelevant shit and missed it. Now you’re mad because you think someone failed you when you really failed yourself.

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If learning is something that most people agree is a lifelong activity, why are so many people from the Millennial/Xennial generation walking around as if they were supposed to be exposed to such topics as “community economic development” at some point in their K-12 education? At what point was the underpaid and overworked teacher supposed to ask who was interested in a career in public administration or social activism?

Which leads me to my next point. Although I like to pretend to know everything, I actually don’t. And when I decide I’d like to know something that I don’t already know, I do the legwork it takes to find out. For those of you unsure of the meaning of legwork, that just means that instead of griping on the internet about the shit I don’t know that I think someone should have volunteered to tell me by rote, I do my own research. I Google, find a book on the subject, or, depending on what the topic is, I may even ask my mother (remember that point about having parents).

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The thing is, if you’re lucky, life will be longer than you think. If you aren’t lazy or one of those people determined to foul up every opportunity they get, you’ll keep learning. Some of your learning will be by trial and error (like when I trusted that a new beautician knew the difference between trimming my ends and damn near scalping me). Some of your learning will merely require you to lift your head from your phone for a few minutes and observe what’s happening around you (like, I’m sure you remember your mom making your doctor’s appointments for you so how you walked away not knowing any of it…IDK). A lot of your learning will require you to be an active participant. You may have to watch some shit you don’t want to watch or read some shit you don’t want to read.

You may have to speak to someone you can’t stand simply because they have the information you need (that’s for you former class skippers who didn’t like Ms. So-and-So but Ms. So-and-So would have helped you not embarrass yourself at 30 crying about not knowing the very shit she was teaching while you were at the mall on a Tuesday at 11:30 am).

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At this rate, in the year 2050, we’ll have a bunch of 20 year-olds mad that nobody taught them to tie their shoe (a sure win for the velcro industry). Let’s hope potty training at 2 is still the standard though.

Let’s do better. Just like we say self-care is your responsibility, so is knowledge. Use the time it takes to complain on the internet about a perceived educational deficit you experienced 15 or 20 years ago to self-educate.

 

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Picking Your Battles: In Defense of People Who Just Don’t Give A Damn

I’m a woman. Words like, “nurturing,” “caring,” and “accepting” are all commonly used to describe women. There is an implicit understanding that women are the ones who should bend over backward and support everyone, even when doing so is completely thankless and without benefit. Add Blackness to that same womanhood and you have the expectation that you should go hungry, sleep outside, march, come in early, stay late, and pretty much sacrifice your own standard of living to make sure other people are comfortable. In social media speak, it’s referred to as “muling.”

We can all attest to having that one (or one hundred) social media acquaintance who claims moral superiority because we dare talk about someone’s Oscars gown instead of multiple posts about the newest tragedy complete with footnotes and multiple links. They start hating you when you point out that laws aren’t necessarily based on morality, reparations were never on Obama’s “to-do” list, “just start a business” isn’t a feasible economic plan, weed isn’t a cure-all, and unconscionable decisions are pretty much a part of the presidential job description. Their final straw is when they post about a two-time felon and violent criminal being killed by a prison guard and instead of following their direction to call the governor of that state, you post about the 2 for $24 3-wick candle sale at Bath & Body Works. You are then DELETED!

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Unfortunately, in this era of heightened social consciousness (real or feigned), many of us refuse to deactivate our “Care” lever, and those of us who do, are often lambasted for doing so.  It just isn’t politically correct to not give a damn. If you don’t lie prostrate at the altar of social outrage about pretty much everything, you’re “part of the problem,” “stupid,” “denying your privilege,” “evil/cold-hearted,” an –ist/-phobic or some combination of any of the above. As we progress (technologically), we can be updated within seconds of everything newsworthy that happens almost anywhere in the world. This makes for a constant barrage of natural disasters, war, and bombings. It also means that we get a steady stream of sob stories, over-exaggerated cries for attention, and plain ol’ bad news. At some point, it’s just too much.

Is the IDGAF Club wrong for deciding to divest from this perpetual cycle of acrimony completely and mind their own business? I don’t think so. Further, I don’t believe that one has to throw themselves headlong into every social movement we’re presented with to be empathetic. One of the things that is repeated over and over again by SJWs is the requirement that people feel and be safe. Yet, we don’t think about the fact that for many people, it is safer for them not to invest tons of emotional and mental energy, let alone physical, into problems that are 1) ancient, 2) likely irremediable, or 3) wildly remote. In fact, a lot of the SJWs who want everybody to be concerned about everything and everybody should probably take a care sabbatical themselves (but that’s another blog post). Trying to be a caped crusader for others when you can hardly get your own life in order is imprudent and ultimately harmful.

The IDGAF Club has mastered one of the best life skills there is: picking their battles.

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As a BW, I choose to focus my concern on Black women and girls. I wish everybody well in their respective struggles, but I can’t be bothered with everything that every group deems unfair; especially when those same groups have historically disregarded the struggles of my own group. The rate at which Black women are killed by intimate partners is shameful. The numbers concerning the sexual abuse of Black girls is terrifying. That’s worth my outrage. That’s worth my energy.

The fact that there are kids who can’t afford school lunch is sad. The newest gentrification crises is a bummer. But, you probably won’t see me at a march, not even a town hall; and there usually has to be a dire situation to get me to sign a Change.org petition. It’s not that I don’t care about anything. I’d just rather be selective about the problems that I spend my time, effort, or resources on.

We’re no good to any movement if we keep trying to jump into every movement.

 

When Seeds Become Plants: Betsy DeVos As Karma

Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education has caused quite a stir. I watched her confirmation hearing and it was awkward. If her confirmation hearing were a sound, it’d be the snapping of a limb as it hits the concrete and breaks. Question after question, she struggled to give answers that were relevant to what she was asked, let alone satisfactory. I watched as senators representing several states each took their turn passing and spiking the football that was Betsy DeVos. If I were Betsy DeVos’ friend, I would have offered her some Sleepytime tea and Vick’s.

Of course, despite being a clearly unqualified candidate for the position, she was confirmed. People were and still are upset. I’m not. I’ve been mulling this over in my head and at some point, I think it’s time to admit that there’s merit to the notion that the value you assign to something is the value that other people will assign to it as well. What if Betsy DeVos is karma?

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I know that some of you may call bullshit but let’s sketch this out. It’s no secret that America has become pretty anti-intellectual. I’m sure we can all remember the video where the white teen in Duncanville, TX stands up and rants against the teacher about the fact that they ‘don’t do anything’ and then he storms out. Teens and adults all over the internet cheered him on. I think the teacher (she may have been a substitute teacher by some reports), was suspended. People were all amped up about this student who became a modern-day Norma Rae and performed that small gesture in favor of students everywhere (I guess).  I’m willing to bet though, he didn’t proceed straightaway to the library and go on a quest for the knowledge of which he believed he was being deprived.

What we also see are statuses and graphics blaming the US education system for not teaching people a myriad of things from how to do taxes to how to fill out a check. People can no longer write complete sentences without confusing simple homonyms. Watch Judge Judy for a week and you’ll hear “tooken” (as opposed to “taken”) at least 4 times followed by Juditha’s (my name for her) admonition that “TOOKEN IS NOT A WORD!” If that’s not enough, this country, the self-proclaimed “greatest country” in the world, elected Donald J. Trump, a man with absolutely no political background or governmental knowledge (obviously) whatsoever, to be president.

At some point, we’ve started to believe that it’s somebody else’s job to give us everything, even the knowledge in our head. Society claims over and over again that education is important. Parents swear that they want the best for their children; but as someone who has worked at various schools, public, charter and private, I’ve seen some of these same parents argue with teachers and administrators about the expectation that their children come to school with the minimum level of preparedness. I’ve found myself on the phone with a parent wanting an explanation as to why the school doesn’t provide pencils, paper, colored pencils, and everything else on the annual school supply list while her child regularly showed up in the latest popular threads. I’ve had one too many exchanges with parents who swore that a ¾” binder or $5.00 safety goggles were out of reach while rapidly fluttering their perfectly done eyelash extensions and wagging their expertly manicured fingers. The free tutoring was either too early or too late or on the wrong day. Guess who wanted conferences at the end of the semester when their child basically needed a magic wand to pass though?

***Pause for accusations of shaming, classism, elitism, and three-headed kitten scenarios***

There’s a lot of worry about what DeVos’s intentions towards public schools are. Public schools are known to be resource-deficient in comparison to private schools. They are also known to show poorer academic performance results amongst the students than those of private schools. Many believe the former and the latter are correlational, if not causational. People are concerned that public school students will receive even less education if DeVos has her way. That’s not necessarily an irrational fear, as you get what you pay for and public school is free. I’m concerned, however, that people haven’t figured out that it’s unwise to lay the whole burden of becoming educated on school (of any type).

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Despite what the tenets of the modern SJM may suggest, many times what you get is a mirror of what you give yourself. We’ve argued (absurdly) for years about whether or not teachers get paid too much. We started hiring unqualified post-teenagers at lower salaries to teach and that pissed us off too. We pretty much force teachers to fill in the financial gaps that the districts, government, and parents won’t. We tried to make teachers responsible for students not performing well on tests. We tried “no retention” policies so that students who were ill-equipped were passed on to the next grade anyway in favor of their (and frankly, their parents’) self-image. We created free assistance programs and then blamed poverty for people not taking advantage of them. We decided that homework was too cumbersome for students and that it was too much to expect parents to actually help their children with it. Parents blamed their children’s teachers for not teaching them…everything. Students blame the education system for not teaching them things their parents should have taught them, (all while being pissed that they can’t use their cellphones in class). The curiosity that is supposed to provoke people to learn enough to be able to think through a question has turned into a quest to be given the answer in 0.42 seconds.

We whine about it. We feign outrage about all of these students getting out of high school and having to take remedial everything in college because at best, they memorized just enough to get through the tests they had to take from K through 12. And after that, we turn around and do the exact same thing: decide that the school system we just ranted against is 100% responsible for making sure the next generation of students don’t become the next crop of Fredo Corleones.

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In that vein, is it any wonder that a country that constantly devalues education ended up with the head of the Department of Education being someone who is unclear about the difference between growth and proficiency? Does it matter when we don’t care about it either? Maybe all of those years of being totally ambivalent about education has come back to bite us in the ass.

Glossary

Three-headed kitten scenario©: (coined) a usually fabricated event that is used to make someone’s actions seem less ridiculous than they actually were.

Ex: Jane said condoms failed when each of her three children were conceived. That sounds like a three-headed kitten scenario to me.