Wisdom Through Humor
Smarten Up

by Anna Sheftel

I'm only 19 years old, but I know that I'm going to sound like an old fogie saying this. I'm really not though; I'm not interested in condemning all of contemporary culture, or lamenting the passing of the Good 'Ole Days. Because not only do those days involve me in diapers, but we've also come way too far since then to start bitching about how we've messed up and lathering ourselves up into a Luddite frenzy. I have no interest in whining about those young nogoodniks that are running around like wild animals knocking over our garbage bins. Still, I'm a little concerned about something.

We're getting stupider.

I'd like to ignore it, but that's difficult when examples keep punching me in the face. And man, am I bruised. It's this typical vicious cycle where we lower standards to help people out, so they get stupider, and then we have to lower them again, and you know where this goes. And it is everywhere.

I had a History teacher last semester who wasn't able to assign a particular book to some of his classes, because the powers that be had made restrictions as to how many pages of reading could be given to students. We're talking post-secondary education, and the man was limited to 250 pages for the entire semester. Of course, the rule was implemented because students were coming out of high school with poor literacy skills and had trouble with too much work, but is it not completely ridiculous to encourage this problem even further? Instead of trying to correct what is a very serious deficiency in our academic system, we feed the fire by letting it go on longer? What lobotomized suit came up with that brilliant plan?

I'm not just seeing it in the schools, though. It's everywhere. Take a look at all these supposedly fabulous adaptations of Shakespeare that have been shoved into movie theatres as of late. While Hollywood wets its pants with pleasure at becoming so darn "cultured", I've got to point out that ripping apart possibly the world's greatest playwright's work until it reaches the level of "Scream 3: Look Behind You, Dumbass", is not exactly an intellectual feet. Remember prettyboy Leo's smash hit adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? Remember how everyone loved it and proclaimed the majesty of the Bard? Well, I hate to point out that the punch is spiked, but the success of the film could be attributed entirely to a purging of any "difficult" dialogue in the play, and to such over-emoting (until they were basically screaming all their lines) by the actors, that you didn't have to listen to the poetry at all. You just had to look at Claire Danes' superhuman pout, and listen to the pseudo-atmospheric pop music in the background, and you got it. Who needs to actually "think" to figure things out anyway?

I know I sound like a snob. I've even accused myself of it when I complained about seeing large digital subtitles at the opera, thus killing the hard work put into an intricate set, and letting us watch the screen to gain an understanding of what was going on, rather than the singers. It disturbed me that in an attempt to draw a bigger audience, the opera company had decided that the music cannot stand on it's own. But I don't mean any of this in an elitist, holier-than-thou way. I'm not exempt from any of the blame. It's just that lowering our standards to make things easier on everyone is just that- an easy way out. We're getting stupider because we're getting lazy. Because participating in an interesting, profound culture takes way more effort than we're willing to give out. Because who really needs that Shakespeare crap anyway, when we've got Kevin Williamson? I don't want us to dumb things down to interest the general public, I want us to make a conscious effort to get smarter as a general public, so that we can properly appreciate the rich culture and history that this planet's got.

There are so many wonderful things going on culturally today. Artists have great freedom of expression, technology creates this amazing accessibility, and open-mindedness is on the upswing. But really, how far are we ever going to go if we are so constantly afraid to think? I don't want us to be stupid; I want all of us on the honour roll.


Convenient Saint Valentine

00/Feb/10 - Martin tries to untangle the roots of Saint Valentine.

So You Think You're In Love?

00/Feb/07 - Marc takes a scrutinizing look at the St. Valentine's theme - denial.

The Duh Report

00/Feb/01 - There's a dull weary droning sound coming from Viki's brain while she watches the evening news.

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