Are we becoming a nation of mindless automatons?

Yes, I am afraid we are. How stupid can we be? How have we allowed ourselves to be so dumbed down?

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys “too much freedom,” not enough or about the right amount, 32% say “too much,” and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The First Amendment is what America stands on. And it sounds like these birdbrains don’t even know it exists. Shocking.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

It’s not just teens.

January 31, 2005 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

But at least the article you linked to says the situation is improving. This new article gives me no confidence at all.

January 31, 2005 @ 2:17 pm | Comment

One in three high-school students… none of whom entered high school before Li’l George became President.

This is one thing that the Bushoisie will clearly not be able to blame on Bill Clinton. Or his penis.

January 31, 2005 @ 3:24 pm | Comment

This is one thing that the Bushoisie will clearly not be able to blame on Bill Clinton. Or his penis.

But I’ll bet they’ll try.

January 31, 2005 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

I put this under the “Young People Today” category, where old farts like us complain about the world going to hell. This kind of snapshot data is inconclusive unless you can use it to demonstrate a trend.
If you took the same poll in 1955, would you get similar results? The article doesn’t say.

January 31, 2005 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

While I denounce all who would censor the media, there is something to be said for US newspapers being made accoutable for some of the garbage that they print.

Maybe these kids aren’t thinking about politics, or the broader picture, but are thinking of so called ‘public interest stories’. and what they want is a moral code to prevent scandle mongers from publishing tabliod style stories.

Too many lives have been damaged by journalists looking to make a quick buck by raking up a scandle. Just look at that story that Richard alerted us to over the judge who was slandered all over the papers. His life was put through the wringer and his daughters were threatened by sick freaky people all becasue of a couple of journalists.

Then again, US high schools don’t have a very good reputation for producing level headed students with a broad perspective on life. Anybody who has ever taken a US history class in America, after taking one outside of America should be able to point out some of the obvious differences, as could anybody who comes from a country where they don’t pledge allegance to the flag or recite an oath of allegance in school.

US high schools can be right old brain washing factories, particularly surrounding anthing to do with high school football.

I wonder what college studnets think

January 31, 2005 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

This is part and parcel of the same mentality that will buy the argument that “naked pyramids” of Iraqi prisoners are akin to “harmless fraternity pranks.”

January 31, 2005 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

Dear ACB,

I have in fact taken issue with you on a few things that you have said recently on this website, but here, well, I have to agree with you.

In Australian primary and high schools, you will find only one national flag on the entire school premises – on a flag pole, used only once a year usually, to honour the country’s war dead on ANZAC Day.

Some schools don’t even have a flag pole at all – but certainly most do.

In the UK, where I have also taught, you will not find a national flag anywhere on the school’s premises – not in any of the schools that I taught at. Not in normal state-run schools, anyway.

There is a reason for this. In both countries, education is secular, and teacher’s unions are strong, and are unwilling to enable the education system to degenerate into a kind of Orwellian propaganda instrument, whereby masses of youth are indoctrinated with lessons in blind nationalism.

China, South Korea, Japan, and the United States are different. In all of these countries, the flag is highly honoured, and is visible everywhere.

Most Australians, like me, do not even know the words to their own National Anthem. The same applies to the English, I know – because I taught there for two years.

When I was in South Korea, every classroom had a Korean national flag flying in front of the room, and there was even a flag in the staff room. Every day, literally, I, along with all of my colleagues, had to salute the flag, and to pledge allegiance to the flag, before lessons could begin.

I was both shocked and horrified by the number of ordinary everyday citizens who would drape their national flag over their own balconies – by the sheer number that decorated their homes with their national flag. If you did this in Australia or New Zealand, you would be considered a true proper dork indeed!

One of my colleagues from London last year visited his wife’s brother in Washington DC, America. He also visited New York, and several other towns along the east coast. He loved New York, but hated Washington. He summed up his opinion of America (or at least of what he had seen of America) with one word: ambivalent.

Why? Much, for sure, was to be admired, he said. But he simply couldn’t cope with the extreme nationalism. He was deeply disturbed by the number of national flags that he saw draped from people’s private homes everywhere he went. He said it was all just a little too surreal, a little too bizarre, a little too neurotic.

I agree I’m afraid. New York is definitely the qunintessential modern/post-modern city. It is truly a remarkable place, a place well worth visiting, and a place in which I coud quite happily live. But the extreme nationalism, well, I must admit, I too find it a little hard to stomach.

And yes, a history lesson in America is most definitely different from the type of history lessons we teachers in the UK and Australia give to our students – at leasdt from what I have been able to tell. Let me just tell you one little story to illustrate my point:

When I lived in London, back in 1994 and 1995, I visited the town of Bath – a few times in fact, but the incident I want to recall, took place in 1994. I remember it all quite vividly in fact. I was standing in a line-up waiting to get in to see the ancient Roman baths. Directly in front of me stood an American couple, and their daughter, who was apparently studying, would you believe, a degree in “world history.” At the time I had never even heard of such a degree.

As it turned out, she was enrolled at a private American university which owned a private castle near to the Scottish border, not too far north of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Her parents were out to visit her. They both told me how much they hated Clinton, and how Reagan was “their man.” I managed to hold my tongue!

Anyhow, this girl asked me where I was from, and I said Australia. She was very friendly, very nice, for sure.

When she later repeated this question though, I assumed that she wanted to know just exactly where abouts in Australia I was from, so I answered, “Newcastle” – about an hour north by car from Sydney.

“Oh”, she exclaimed, “me too!”

“No,” I said, “I’m from Newcastle in Australia.”

“Oh!” she said, surprised. “So there’s a Newcastle in Australia too! Same in America.”

Her parents both expressed surprise as well. I explained to them the fact that Australia had been settled by the English around two hundred years ago, and they all looked surprised. “Really?” said the girld’s mother. “Your history is similar to ours then, only we are twice as old,” she said.

But what really shocked me into absolute silence, into absolute internal laughter, was what the girl, this girl who was already into her second year of studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in “World History” is what she next said. She said, “So tell me, did Australia get the name Newcastle from England, or did England get it from Australia?”

I kid you not – this conversation REALLY did take place!

When my sister went to California back in 1985, many people had never even heard of Australia. “Where did you get your accent from?” they would ask. “Australia,” she would answer. “Which state is that in?” was the usual reply. My music teacher told me of almost identical stories when he visited New York back in 1982.

Every Australian knows an enormous amount about America, and the resat of the world in fact. When I was 13 years old, as a high school student in a normal state-run high school, I was learning about the slash and burn agricultural practices of the remote tribal peoples of Sarawak (Borneo) – former head-hunters who lived in long-houses. I was learning, back then, also how such communities lent themselves to bisexual norms – and how pigs were so culturally valuable, that female humans would even breast-feed a piglet from one breast, whilst simultaneously breat-feeding their own child from the other. We even viewed video footage of this. We learnt the structuralist theories of Levi-Strauss the following year, when I was 14, and how this could be used to help analyse just about any given society, including the norms in practice adopted by the Machaguena pigmies of Brazil.

I do have to admit though, that, yes, sadly, in both Australia and the UK, the education system is also in decline. The curriculum these days is way too cluttered. Learning how to design web pages takes precedence over learning how to spell even.

It is not only Americans who are now being dumbed down – it has become a trend in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK as well. One of the reasons why i resigned from the New South Wales Departmewnt of Education and Training just over three years ago now, was because of this – when an analysis of mobile phone text messages (in their much abbreviated form – eg. I luv u) becomes more worthy than the study of Marx or Shakespeare or Hemmingway or Steinbeck or Ginsberg, than you know something is seriously wrong!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 12:44 am | Comment

P.S. Sorry about the typing errors in my last entry. I’m in a bit of a rush though, I’m afraid,

Mark Anthony Jones

February 1, 2005 @ 12:52 am | Comment

This is shocking to me, Richard. One in three sounds like Chinese high school student. If they survey my state only, the result wouldn’t be the that terrible.

February 1, 2005 @ 5:22 am | Comment

“If they survey my state only, the result wouldn’t be the that terrible.”

What “state” did you list in your PRC passport?

February 1, 2005 @ 9:53 pm | Comment

If there’s one single issue to raise the alarm about the current state of the US, I’d say public education would be it. I mean it was pretty bad even 20 or 30 years ago, but it’s ghastly now.

Oh, you monomaniacs who want to make it into a Bush or Clinton issue, cut it out; that’s just silly.

As an aside, that survey makes great support for the argument against lowering the voting age. You want those wankers running the country?

February 1, 2005 @ 11:17 pm | Comment


I’m glad that there is something that we can agree on.

Unlike you, I studied in Britain rather than taught, so my experience is was probably a little different. My high school never flew the English or British flag, they had a flag pole, but it was never used, not even on the Queen’s birthday or Armistice Day. My University was a little different though; it was founded by the British Royal Navy and had special permission to fly the Ensign Flag used by the navy. It was a great symbol of pride, even to the foreign students. We even had flag ceremonies. It wasn’t nationalistic and it didn’t promote patriotism or glorify Britain’s rather disputed colonial past, and nobody pretended that it made us better than everybody else; instead it was a symbol of pride in the university’s history. Just like a flag ceremony or an anthem should be.

I had thought that most English schools were not secular; they were either nominally Church of England (the had Christian prayers, but you didn’t have to pray if you didn’t want to, or be a Christian to attend) or ‘multi-faith’ which meant that they allow all religions and prayers to be said and they taught about all religions in religious education classes, rather than banning all mentions of faith like in America state schools.

Then again, I haven’t been to England in what seems like a very long time, so it might have changed somewhat over the years. My experiences also weren’t exactly typical of most students in England.

I think that Australia is surer of its self and its identity than America, so it doesn’t need to show its flag or sing its national anthem so much. Australians know who they are and they don’t need reminding.

In Britain though it is the other way round, the British government is afraid that the flag might be used as a symbol of nationalism and used to ferment racism. The government is afraid that the flag might also offend foreigners or those whose parents and grandparents were immigrants, of which Britain has a lot. Ordinary Britains however know who they are and don’t need reminding.

February 2, 2005 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

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