I've heard that people are complaining everyone are getting dumber because of popular culture and the Internet. I read an article in cracked that said people are actually getting smarter because of improving education. The question is, are people really getting dumber or simply acting dumb?
Here's an example of where the confusion comes from. This is a fairly representative USA Today story that bemoans the poor performance of U.S. students. Many such stories have been published in the past few years. (Indeed, probably since at least the early 80s.)
Note those first two words: In ranking. At first glance the story might seem to be asserting that U.S. students are getting dumber. But after a listing of U.S. student rankings among various nations of the world, the story states:
So if we try to look at the scores objectively, comparing year-over-year, we may not be #1 at present, but we do seem to be getting smarter. Right? But then follows this quote:
If our Education Secretary can't understand any kind of measurement except a ranking, and thus regards a measured improvement as "extraordinarily challenging", then it sounds to me like Mr. Duncan himself has an education problem.
I will give kudos to this story for being detailed. It examines actual average score differences further down. But it's the quotes that draw your eyes, and the quotes all say the results are a disaster.
Alfie Kohn wrote this in one of his books in regards to school or district rankings on standardized tests. I think the same principle applies here: