Dumbing down

Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content in education, literature, and cinema, news, video games and culture. The term "dumbing down" originated in 1933, as movie-business slang used by screenplay writers, meaning: "[to] revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence".[1] Dumbing-down varies according to subject matter, and usually involves the diminishment of critical thought, by undermining intellectual standards within language and learning; thus trivializing meaningful information, culture, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979), the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) proposed that, in a society in which the cultural practices of the ruling class are rendered and established as the legitimate culture of that society, that action then devalues the cultural capital of the subordinate social classes, and thus limits their social mobility within their own society.


In the late 20th century, the proportion of young people attending university in the UK increased sharply, including many who previously would not have been considered to possess the appropriate scholastic aptitude. In 2003, the UK Minister for Universities, Margaret Hodge, criticised Mickey Mouse degrees as a negative consequence of universities dumbing down their courses to meet "the needs of the market": these are degrees conferred for studies in a field of endeavour "where the content is perhaps not as [intellectually] rigorous as one would expect, and where the degree, itself, may not have huge relevance in the labour market": thus, a university degree of slight intellectual substance, which the student earned by "simply stacking up numbers on Mickey Mouse courses, is not acceptable".[2][3]

In 2007 Wellington Grey, a high school physics instructor in London, published an Internet petition objecting to what he described as a dumbed-down curriculum. He wrote: "I am a physics teacher. Or, at least, I used to be"; and complained that "[Mathematical] calculations – the very soul of physics – are absent from the new General Certificate of Secondary Education."[4] Among the examples of dumbing-down that he provided were: "Question: Why would radio stations broadcast digital signals, rather than analogue signals? Answer: Can be processed by computer/ipod" to "Question: Why must we develop renewable energy sources?" (a political question).

In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1991, 2002), John Taylor Gatto presented speeches and essays, including "The Psychopathic School", his acceptance speech for the 1990 New York City Teacher of the Year award, and "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher", his acceptance speech upon being named as the New York State Teacher of the Year for 1991.[5] Gatto writes that while he was hired to teach English and literature, he came to believe he was employed as part of a social engineering project. The "seven lessons" at the foundation of schooling were never explicitly stated, Gatto writes, but included teaching students that their self-worth depended on outside evaluation; that they were constantly ranked and supervised; and that they had no opportunities for privacy or solitude. Gatto speculated:

Was it possible, I had been hired, not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy, on the face of it, but slowly, I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think, and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.[5]

In examining the seven lessons of teaching, Gatto concluded that "all of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius." That "school is a twelve-year jail sentence, where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school, and win awards doing it. I should know."[5]

Mass communications media

In France, Michel Houellebecq has written (not excluding himself) of "the shocking dumbing-down of French culture and intellect as was recently pointed out, [2008] sternly but fairly, by TIME magazine."[6]

In popular culture

The science fiction film Idiocracy (2005) portrays the U.S. as a greatly dumbed-down society 500 years in the future, in which low culture and philistinism were unintentionally achieved by eroding language and education coupled with dysgenics, where people of lower intelligence reproduced faster than the people of higher intelligence. Similar concepts appeared in earlier works, notably the science fiction short story The Marching Morons (1951), by Cyril M. Kornbluth which also features a modern-day protagonist in a future dominated by low-intelligence persons. Moreover, the novel Brave New World (1931), by Aldous Huxley, discussed the ways a utopian society was deliberately dumbed down in order to maintain political stability and social order by eliminating complex concepts unnecessary for society to function (e.g., the Savage tries reading Shakespeare to the masses and is not understood). More malevolent uses of dumbing down to preserve the social order are also portrayed in The Matrix, Nineteen Eighty-Four and many dystopian movies.

The social critic Paul Fussell touched on these themes ("prole drift") in his non-fiction book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983)[7] and focused on them specifically in BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991).

The musical groups Chumbawamba, The Divine Comedy, Ugly Duckling, and Lupe Fiasco each have a song titled "Dumb It Down".

See also


  1. ^ Algeo, John; Algeo, Adele (1988). "Among the New Words". American Speech. 63 (4): 235–236. doi:10.1215/00031283-78-3-331.
  2. ^ "'Irresponsible' Hodge under fire". BBC News: World Edition. 14 January 2003. Retrieved 24 June 2006.
  3. ^ MacLeod, Donald (14 July 2005). "50% higher education target doomed, says thinktank". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 June 2006.
  4. ^ "Physicists protest at GCSE change". BBC News. 28 June 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Blumenfeld, Samuel L. (May 1993). "The Blumenfeld Education Letter - May 1993: Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling By John Taylor Gatto". The Odysseus Group. John Taylor Gatto. Archived from the original on 11 July 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  6. ^ Lévy, Bernard-Henri; Houellebecq, Michel (2011). Public Enemies: Dueling Writers Take on Each Other and the World. Translated by Frendo, Miriam; Wynne, Frank. New York: Random House. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-8129-8078-3. OCLC 326529237.
  7. ^ Fussell, Paul (1983). Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1st ed.). New York: Summit Books. ISBN 978-0-671-44991-9. OCLC 9685644.

Further reading

  • Mosley, Ivo, ed. (2000). Dumbing Down: Culture, Politics, and the Mass Media. Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic. ISBN 978-0-907845-65-2. OCLC 43340314. (Collection of essays.)

External links

Avant-Garde and Kitsch

Avant-Garde and Kitsch is the title of a 1939 essay by Clement Greenberg, first published in the Partisan Review, in which he claimed that avant-garde and modernist art was a means to resist the "dumbing down" of culture caused by consumerism.

The term "kitsch" came into use in the 1860s or 1870s in Germany's street markets.

Bon Appetit (album)

Bon Appetit is the third full-length album released by D.I.T.C. rapper O.C.; released in 2001. As on previous efforts, Buckwild handles the bulk of the production; he was responsible for 12 out of 15 songs on the album. The other contributions come from Lord Finesse (who also produced on both of the two previous albums) and Ahmed who O.C. previously worked together with on the self-titled D.I.T.C. album released in 2000. Guest appearances are as usual kept to a minimum on Bon Appetit and in the family as A.G., The Ghetto Dwellas and A Bless appear on one track each. Two rappers by the name of UNI and TL, who still remain unknown to this day, trade verses with O on the title track and rapper Jay-Z perform the hook on the hidden bonus track "Bonafide" (originally released in 1999 on a limited 12" single).

The album was met with very mixed reviews some claimed it to be a case of O.C. selling out and dumbing down his lyrics while other publications like HipHopDX.com called it "what might be the strongest album in his career). The sound is much more polished from Word...Life and Jewelz and incorporates a bit of a commercial touch in its places although none of the records were big radio hits.

The European version of the CD includes two extra bonus tracks at the end; "Half Good, Half Sinner" (which was released as a 12" in the US prior to the album's release with a sticker saying "from the forthcoming OC album on JCOR Records) and the previously unreleased "Ex-O-Cise (No Hook Theory)". The songs appears between "Psalm #23" (excluding the spoken ColdWaxa outro) and "Bonafied", both songs are supposedly produced by Buckwild as well.

Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt

Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt is an American freelance writer and former senior policy advisor to the U.S. Department of Education.

Fancy Dress Party

The Fancy Dress Party is a political party in England. They were formed in 1979 as a frivolous alternative to the mainstream electoral parties, and can be seen as a forerunner of the more prominent Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Candidates stood in the 1979 general election, with John Beddoes being nominated in Dartford. Other Fancy Dress Party candidates stood in Dartford in each of the general elections in 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2001, and the party as of 2010 remains on the register of political parties.

John 'Ernie' Crockford was the Fancy Dress Party's candidate for the 2010 general election. Keynote manifestos include rapidly building new schools using revolutionary inflatable classrooms making it easier for delinquent pupils to let the entire school down, reducing class sizes to 3'x2'6" and the abolition of student top-up fees; students should be entitled to full pints the same as everyone else.Some more policies include:

Equip all Police Stations with state of the art lavatories so that, whatever the crime, the police will always have something to go on.

Increase prison sentances to at least 20 words.

Double police numbers; in future, PC49 will be known as PC98.

Add spelling to the national kricklum

Put an end to the dumbing-down of exams by replacing A-levels with jolly hard colouring tests.

Put an end to secondary school classes of over 40 by only accepting children of under 39 years of age.

Make cycling more attractive by banning the obese from wearing cycle shorts.

Reduce Britain's carbon footprint by introducing solar-powered sun beds.

Use a smaller font size to automatically reduce the unemployment statistics.

Jewish guilt

Jewish guilt is the supposed guilt felt by some Jews. Currently, Jewish guilt is often a source of Jewish humor, but sometimes leads to self-hatred among some Jews.

Joe Barr

Joe Barr (October 19, 1944 – July 11, 2008) was an American technology journalist, an editor and writer for the SourceForge sites Linux.com and IT Manager's Journal.

A former programmer, Barr had worked on everything from microcomputers like the TRS-80 Model I to IBM mainframes with acres of DASD, writing code in more than a dozen languages, including RPG II, 370 ALC, COBOL, BASIC, TIBOL, MASM, and C, much of that experience coming in his 13 years with Ross Perot's EDS.As a writer, Barr first gained notoriety and, according to Ziff-Davis' Spencer F. Katt, a cult-like following for his zine, The Dweebspeak Primer. Barr began writing about personal computing in 1994, and primarily about Linux and open source in 1998, when he began writing for IDG's LinuxWorld.com. The MPlayer project made him even better known by dedicating a derogatory page to him in their documentation after he wrote a piece entitled MPlayer: The project from hell.In 2001, Barr was awarded a Silver Medal by the American Society of Business Publication Editors in the category of Original Web Commentary for his LinuxWorld.com article entitled Dumbing Down Linux.

In his last years he worked at OSTG, writing articles, columns, and commentary for NewsForge and Linux.com. Barr's first book, CLI for Noobies, was published in 2007 by the SourceForge Community Press.

He also was an enthusiastic amateur radio operator using his callsign W5CT.Barr died on July 11, 2008.

Joel Peissig

Joel Peissig is an American film director. He signed to Ridley Scott Associates production company in 2001. He was in the New Directors Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival of 2002. He is widely known for his award-winning Resfest music video of Frou Frou's "Dumbing Down of Love" (2003), and in 2005 he directed the video for Imogen Heap's Grammy nominated single "Hide and Seek".

Just How Stupid Are We?

Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter is a political book by author Rick Shenkman published by Basic Books in June 2008.

(ISBN 978-0465014934)

The book argues that although the American government has gained global political power since the late 19th century, American voters have become increasingly ignorant of politics and world affairs and are dangerously susceptible to political manipulation. The book claims that Americans are largely incapable of critically assessing domestic and international issues, and therefore lack the knowledge and ability to participate effectively in the political process or to select political leaders in line with the national or even their own best interests. Shenkman argues that voters are repeatedly and systematically misled and manipulated by politicians, and he analyzes the "dumbing down" of American politics arising from the saturation of marketing, spin machines and misinformation in American political culture.

Marva Dawn

Marva J. Dawn (born August 20, 1948, in Napoleon, Ohio) is an American Christian theologian, author, musician and educator, associated with the parachurch organization Christians Equipped for Ministry in Vancouver, Washington. She also serves as Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dawn is generally perceived as a Lutheran evangelical. She often writes in a paleo-orthodox style, stressing the importance of Christian tradition and the wisdom of the Church through the centuries. Her birth surname is Gersmehl; Dawn is a pseudonym.

A scholar with four master's degrees and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and the Scriptures from the University of Notre Dame, she has taught for clergy and worship conferences and at seminaries throughout the United States and Canada and in Australia, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore and Scotland. She is also well known as a preacher and speaker for all ages and sometimes contributes to worship by means of her musical gifts. She is married to Myron Sandberg.

Her 1995 book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture, which urged a second look at so-called "contemporary Christian worship", caused a stir in evangelical circles, being the first scholarly work from within the evangelical community to seriously question "seeker sensitive" style worship. Dawn claims that much contemporary worship, which seeks primarily to evangelize through entertainment, is not really Christian worship at all. Rather than focus on bringing people into the church through worship, Dawn argues that worship should instead focus upon the glory and grace of the triune God, not ignoring the artistic treasures and traditions of the Church through the ages. The book remains her most widely read and most talked about work. Dawn continued this exploration in her 1999 book, A Royal "Waste" of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World.

In her more recent work, Dawn has drawn on Albert Borgmann's notion of the device paradigm to develop a critique of the church in its capitulation to commodification where worship, for example, becomes a device to attract and please.Some other notable works include:

The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath way of life for those who serve God, the church, and the world

How Shall We Worship?: Biblical Guidelines for the Worship Wars

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting

Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God. *

Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church (formerly titled The Hilarity of Community)

The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call. **

Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to IntimacyNotes. * (honored with the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award in the category of The Church/Pastoral Leadership). ** (with Eugene Peterson, author of The Message)

Math–verbal achievement gap

The math–verbal achievement gap is a phenomenon first observed by Richard Rothstein in a brief 2002 article written in The New York Times. This achievement gap reveals a growing disparity in the United States between the rising national average on the math portions of the college entry SAT and ACT exams, as opposed to the flat-lining verbal portions on the same tests.

Micro Adventure

Micro Adventure is the title of a series of books for young adult readers, published by Scholastic, Inc. during the 1980s. Created by Eileen Buckholtz and Ruth Glick, the YA series combined adventure stories with computer activities.

The books are noted for the inclusion of short BASIC type-in programs related to the plot of the story that the reader could type into their computers, and also for the use of second-person narration (rather like the Choose Your Own Adventure series, though unlike those, Micro Adventure storylines could not be influenced by the decisions of the reader). The combination of these two elements made the Micro Adventure books something of an immersion experience.

Through the second-person narration, the reader took the part of Orion, a computer expert and agent for the Adventure Connection Team, and followed the action in the continuing struggle against ACT’s nemesis, BRUTE (Bureau of Random Unlawful Terror and Evil).

The plots generally resembled those typically found in other works of the secret agent/adventure genre, ranging from sabotage aboard a space station to android doubles of the President of the United States, but stand out for their clever twists and lack of "dumbing down" often found in similar juvenile literature.

The programs themselves were actually quite impressive, some even being simple “shoot-em-up” games, yet were all designed to be small (none were over 2K in file size, a must given the limitations of some personal computers available at the time, such as the TI-99/4A) and easily typed in by even the most novice programmer. Instructions were included on how to "tweak" the programs to make them run on almost any popular home computer of the time.

As a bonus, an appendix to each book gave step-by-step analyses of each of the programs in that particular book as a method of teaching simple programming theory and construction.

In 2017, Auri Rahimzadeh created a website to read the books and enter their programs in an on-page emulator.

Moral authority

Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth. Because truth does not change, the principles of moral authority are immutable or unchangeable, although as applied to individual circumstances the dictates of moral authority for action may vary due to the exigencies of human life. These principles, which can be of metaphysical or religious nature, are considered normative for behavior, whether they are or are not also embodied in written laws, and even if the community is ignoring or violating them. Therefore, the authoritativeness or force of moral authority is applied to the conscience of each individual, who is free to act according to or against its dictates.

Moral authority has thus also been defined as the "fundamental assumptions that guide our perceptions of the world".

Sound bite

A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music extracted from a longer piece of audio, often used to promote or exemplify the full length piece. In the context of journalism, a sound bite is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or viewer. The term was coined by the U.S. media in the 1970s. Since then, politicians have increasingly employed sound bites to summarize their positions.

Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and can be misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation, leading to conflict over journalistic ethics.

Stand for Something or Die for Nothing

Stand for Something or Die for Nothing is the sixth album by the Street Dogs. It was released on June 22, 2018. The album marks the band's first full-length album in eight years and first for the Century Media label. The album is the first to feature Pete Sosa on drums, Matt Pruitt on lead guitar and Lenny Lashley on rhythm guitar. The album features a guest appearance by Boston hip hop artist and actor, Slaine, on the song "Angels Calling".Singer Mike McColgan said of the album “The dumbing down of America is a reason to write songs in 2018. The theme is wake the fuck up and the working class needs to unite across all colors, creeds, nationalities, genders and realize that we are being pitted against each other by snake oil salesmen and autocrats. From freedom of speech (“Stand for Something or Die for Nothing”) to living The American Dream (“Working Class Heroes”) to getting back on track (“The Comeback Zone”) – Stand for Something or Die for Nothing raises political awareness and injects optimism into those who have doubts about their future and the current administration

The Concord Review

The Concord Review: A Quarterly Review of Essays by Students of History is an academic journal dedicated to publishing the research papers of high school students. Established in 1987 by William H. Fitzhugh, a Massachusetts educator dismayed with the "dumbing down" of writing standards in American secondary schools, publication in the Review is considered among the most prestigious awards for high school students.Issued quarterly, the journal publishes research monographs on history topics from high school students from any country, as long as they are in English. Submissions are typically 4000 to 5500 words long, and must be accompanied by a subscription fee (ranging from $70-$150) to the journal in order to be considered.

Transfer (propaganda)

Transfer is a technique used in propaganda and advertising. Also known as association, this is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another in order to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities. Often highly visual, this technique often utilizes symbols superimposed over other visual images. An example of common use of this technique in the United States is for the President to be filmed or photographed in front of the country's flag. Another technique used is celebrity endorsement.


Understatement is a form of speech or disclosure which contains an expression of lesser strength than what would be expected. It is the opposite of an embellishment. The rhetorical form of understatement is litotes in which understatement is used for emphasis and irony. This is not to be confused with euphemism, where a polite phrase is used in place of a harsher or more offensive expression.

Understatement be also be called underexaggeration to denote lesser enthusiasm.

WYSIWYG (album)

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) is the ninth studio album by anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba. Released after the massive success of their previous effort, Tubthumper, it commented on various aspects of the pop culture the band had inadvertently become a part of. It achieved this by the heavy inclusion of sound bites, pop culture and commercial culture references and even a small amount of self-parody.

Intermittent or partial
negative reinforcement
Other techniques
Related topics
In academia
News media
Political campaigning
Psychological warfare
Public relations

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.