Indelible Blue Pen

Jason C. McDonald (CodeMouse92)

June 10, 2012

I’m Allergic To Stupidity…

Is it just me, or is our population actually getting dumber?

Actually, it was the moderator election over at a programmer’s forum that brought this up. Over the past year, I’ve noticed an increase in the population of Programatticus Takeoveriticus and P. Newbieflamerous. (If that just threw you for a loop, read my post “So That’s Why They Call It Windows”)

I actually got shredded by one P. Newbieflamerous last month for having the audacity to answer a question he deemed stupid. Granted, more than one person believed the question should be closed. Yet, the nice thing about that place is that it is community run. I answered before it was closed, a very acceptable practice.

Unfortunately, this dude figured the world should agree with him. To be honest, the whole thing was kinda funny, what with him saying “I must be new there,” when I have over six months on him in membership, and that I should “read the FAQ” when he himself missed entire paragraphs of it.  In both cases, he must have been a hybrid between P. Newbieflamerous and P. Noreadicus. The moderators dealt with him, thankfully, but that type of thing is NOT an isolated incident around there.

To be honest, I’ve dealt with worse…like the forum moderating job in which I was accused of inventing the rules of Greek debate. (True story. That was a keeper!) Still, the sheer mass of stupidity in today’s society is…well…staggering.

I really wish I could say that this was just an illusion created by the media (though they certainly contribute, considering such movies as  “Jacka**”). But Hollywood is just capitalizing on our existing fascination with stupidity. After all, look what videos go viral on YouTube. Cute animals and stupid people.

So, we have a culture of attention-seeking teens with no common sense, attempting as-seen-in-Hollywood stunts to get their 15 minutes of fame. That potent mix accounts for a good part of stupidity. (It actually dates back to before YouTube. i.e. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”)

Then those same stupid teenagers, who never got over their head injuries from said stunts, are now grown and running the world. And raising teens of their own. God help us.

So why is it that, no matter where I go, the idiots always find me? I think it’s partially because we’re all prone to stupidity at some point or another. We’ve all walked into bright-blazingly obvious telephone posts, said things without thinking, shared knowledge we didn’t bother to verify, and so on and so forth. Even if we managed to get away from everyone else in the world, we’d never be able to get away from OURSELVES.

Of course, the person at this keyboard has really pulled off some stupid moves. Case and point, I spent a good minute pulling on and walking into a closed door in my own house, half because I forgot to turn the knob, and half because I had forgotten it was a push, not a pull. If stupidity is defined by repeating the same action, expecting different results…well, you get the picture.

Then you have the language. Which is always changing, with new and stupid phrases being added daily. The Internet: Communication mangled while you wait.

One YouTuber actually used the phrase “the phone has been ringing off the roof!”

For cryin’ out loud, look at the words and phrases we’ve gotten from pop culture and the interwebs ? (Like the word I just used.) “My bad.” “n00b” (with the zeros), “wazzup”, and the whole chat-speak language.

When people actually say “lol” or “roftl” in regular speech, I seriously want to hurt them. But then, I’ve used the phrase “brb” in regular speech, too, so I’m something of a hypocrite here. I gotta stop it.

Another recent instance from the S-Files comes when I was taking the AP English test. When we were instructed to open our sealed test booklets, a sheet of three large white stickers fell out. The proctor, a few moments later, explained their presence by reading the script out of his booklet. “Retain these white stickers for sealing your test booklet at the end of the exam…yes, sir, the ones you just tore in half.”

That obvious deviation from the instructions prompted me to look up. The kid on the end of the front row had indeed torn the entire sheet of stickers in half. Now, in my experience, standardized tests NEVER come with spare parts. So, if something weird comes with the booklet, chances are, it was intentional. This poor kid had never received the memo.

Then again, earlier he had also destroyed one of the pens, not that I can blame him there. These were one of those stylistic trick pens that has what LOOKS like the pen cap welded to the bottom, and when you twist it, the pen tip comes out the other end. This dude had just yanked the whole “cap” off, along with the pen shaft. And the ink. And the tip.

When the proctor handed me my pen, I nearly did the same thing, but stopped myself. “I only have two left,” he muttered.

“Make that one.” I replied, handing mine back. “This one is dead.”

Of course, the test organizers earned their membership card into the Idiots Club too, by springing on us WASL-trained #2 pencil users that the 2 hour essay section would be done entirely in pen. How’s THAT for a detail to leave out of a test prep booklet? So, here is a company of students carrying a forest’s worth of wood in sharpened pencils, a classroom with only three untested spare pens in a class which they KNEW the exact size of (mind you, three people were absent besides…), and each student writes about 10 pages, single spaced, in ink. Brilliant.

I wonder how many of those essays were written in chatspeak.

That’s not the only incidence of stupidity I’ve seen in standardized testing. The first time I took the WASL (as administered by the Department of Stupidity in Academics), I was in a class with a collective IQ of 3. You think I’m just being cruel, but I’m not kidding!

After the science section, one 8th grader raises his hand and says, “Now that that’s over, can I ask a question?”

“Sure,” answers the teacher.

“What does pH mean? Plant height?”

That wasn’t the worst part. It was the unanimous affirmation from the REST of the 8th and 9th grade class that they had all guessed the same!

While the teacher calmly explained the concept of acidity, I made a cozy little dent in the desk with my head.

I took the WASL again a few years later, under its new name, the HSPE (sorry, but how wise is it to name an already dreaded test something that sounds so snake-like phonetically?) By then, the testers had learned to plan for the general lack of intelligence that is our public school system, as evidenced by their handy little non-mathematical vocabulary chart  (see “It Looks Like a Duck to Me”).

There’s “No Child Left Behind” in a nutshell. No one is left behind, because we’re all held back in Dippyville.

And we wonder why our population is getting dumber. Excuse me while I go read Tolstoy to keep my brain alive.


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