Dear America: Why Don’t We Celebrate Intelligence?

Why and How Intellect is Straying Further and Further from our Focus

This graph demonstrates the imbalance and inconsistency of information, and where it comes from. Social media has a surprising 18%.

This graph demonstrates the imbalance and inconsistency of information, and where it comes from. Social media has a surprising 18%.

Gabriel Johnson, Staff Writer

This country is considered to be one of the most educated and aware in the world. We have one of the highest budgets for education, spending the 6th highest GDP on education since 2017 according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. This statistic along with the fact that technology has expanded our information-gaining capabilities and resources make it obvious that our citizens should be highly aware and informed. This, however, is a façade… well, not quite yet, but we are pursuing this façade faster than expected.

What do I mean? We can speculate that the reasons the US population has become more aware of vast amounts of information are also the catalyst for misinformation and delusionality. At first, this is seemingly ridiculous, but it is important to delve into. I will introduce these reasons and explain how they negatively affect intelligence and our view of it. 

  1.  The Media

While “media” encompasses a broad spectrum of ideas, my focus is on the media’s utilization of sensationalism and its effectiveness at attracting more viewership. What does this mean for the spread of information? 

News networks realize that the most viewership is achievable not by providing unbiased information, but sensationalism and generally more shock-value based stories. While this boosts viewership, it creates a divide between citizens and a complete understanding of a situation. According to Sarah Kreps in her paper, The Role of Technology in Online Misinformation, she concludes that “The consequence is that citizens tune out of the political discourse or tune into their own, politically congenial filter bubble.”

Many news outlets choose to report on shootings, almost dramatizing them, in many cases even comparing them to the severity of previous shootings. Agencies base their coverage on following celebrities, asking provocative questions, and fabricating shocking stories about them to attract viewers. Is this ideal for our country’s prioritization of intelligence and spread of solid info?

      2. Technology  

The technological impact on our country has provided us with an infinite amount of information at our fingertips. Constant ideas and information is shoved in our face from a phone screen that fits in our pocket. Constant arguments along with an overwhelming influx of different ideologies, political views, and criticisms are everywhere. Technology is even proven to be addictive; this in addition to the consistent output of shocking, controversial, and negative information is a recipe for a clouded sense of reality, truth, and judgment. 

Social platforms gravitate towards the idea of instant gratification, and nulling of attention spans, hence its addictive qualities. This unintentionally makes the primary source of information for teens and young adults come from a place where shock value trumps logic and truth. Even online trends such as the tide pod challenge promote utter stupidity. 

 This aspect makes people more likely to focus their short attention on quick funny or political videos rather than putting time and diligence into learning. For example, movies, shows, and social media are taking over the youth, while reading books, studying past figures, and figuring out information for oneself is slowly ceasing.

       3. Glorification of Conspiracy

“Glorification of Conspiracy” is a term centralized around the idea that along with the internets’ popularity, its widespread ideas are circulated and spread much easier. As previously stated, people tend to gravitate towards different, interesting, or shocking stories given a minute amount of evidence, influenced heavily by excitement. This is where conspiracy theories emerge, and create an unhealthy way of finding and interpreting info. People promote distrust in society and spread misinformation. 

Take for example a widespread 2017 survey, denoting that over 40% of citizens believe vaccines are unsafe, 20% believing climate change is not real, 14% believing the moon landing is fake, and 2% believing the earth to be FLAT (yes, some truly believe the Earth is flat). How did we get to this point? Why did years of technological advancements, evidence, and countless hours of work from scientists, doctors, and politicians get flushed down the drain? 

      4. The Education System

Education in America psychologically pushes the motivation for learning away from the youth. Schools at least prior to college mainly focus “learning” onto deadlines, tests of knowledge, and assessments. Most children have little to no interest in learning for themselves, as they are only presented with information, and not why it is useful to them. Previous societies valued education and considered it prideful to attain it. This is because the things they learned could be thoroughly applied to aspects of life to help attain their goals. 

Tests associate students’ gaining of knowledge with stress, and makes the brain less likely to retain the information long term. Right after the test is over, the brain naturally discards the information. 

This is one example of why the education system must be tweaked to interest the idea of learning more. A NY Times article regarding the issue puts it best, “Because students have this kind of pressure on them they purely focus on doing well rather than actually learning and taking something valuable away from what they are being taught”.

All of these aspects of society are difficult to change, but what can be done is simple. Focus more on intelligence; true intelligence. Work on deductive reasoning and ability. Figure out how to research efficiently, and stop yourself from succumbing to misinformation projected by shock value and negativity. 

Let us glorify being highly intellectual and independent thinkers. Now that you know most of the biggest culprits for hurting your intellect, you can combat them effectively, and spread the word to save others from falling victim to ignorance.