Dumb and Dumber

Usually one characteristic of super smart people is memory capability.  I have known some who can recall reams of data, especially when taking tests.  In a tribute to the late William F. Buckley Jr., it was said that he had read most of the books worth reading and remembered them all.  A shortcoming that has plagued me is the inability to recall names very well.  One person really hurt my feelings once when the comment was, “that’s not very good for being a counselor, is it?”  So much for being vulnerable and revealing my true self like we’re supposed to do now and then.  I can’t remember who told me that.

How relieved I was to find out that that particular problem is in fact not a defect.  It is characteristic of certain personality types.  Really.  I think it is even indicative of a superior type of personality (I made that up).  And of course the young sort of memorize easily without giving it much thought.  I noticed years ago the trend in the field of education that pushed the idea that memorization was an outdated form of education.  Well, the ramifications of that was a generation of students, most of whom were terrible at math in part, among many others, because no one insisted that they learn their “times tables,” as we used to call them.

As bad as the “no memorization” education is, it is now worse with the Internet and the plethora of information available instantaneously.  Mr. Google knows everything so who wants to read books anymore?  I’ll have to admit that I have gotten so used to Internet info that I surely would not want to do without it.   In the good old days I worked hard to retain information that I felt was particularly important to hang on to.  Now, however, I know that any bit of info is so readily available that I don’t bother trying to remember stuff.  Is that such a bad thing?  Since I don’t have to take finals anymore, or satisfy graduate committees, it works for me.

I fear though that everyone else is doing pretty much the same thing, which means that the level of learning, critical analysis and general thinking may suffer, especially for the young and future generations who will not benefit from, once again, the good old days of digging and scrapping for mind “stuff.”  Unbeknownst at the time, maybe, was the secondary education resulting from card catalogues, microfiche, lonely library stacks and the hours of disciplined work a la Sherlock in pursuing learning.

Writing in the aFa Journal, Nicholas Dean states that, “When we develop a habit of quick web searches for information or multi-tasking on many tabs, programs and devices, we are literally rewiring our brains to be poorer at focusing, being patient and retaining information long term.”  It remains to be seen what will be the long-term results of a generation of digital learning.  The brightest will not be affected, they never are, but we average folk who are in competition with many, may not benefit as much as is thought.  Besides that, aren’t the up and comers going to have difficulty typing term papers with their thumbs?

One question that comes to mind is the responsibility Christians have to learning and study.  Much emphasis in the Bible is placed on the use of wisdom.  Even today the comment is made often that some have “A lot of book learning, but no common sense.”  That seems to play into the idea that “book learning,” while important for many jobs and applications, does not take the place of, nor necessarily result in “common sense,” or wisdom.  That’s not to say that common sense and wisdom are equal, but they do have some similarities.

When the Bible speaks of learning, it’s mainly related to Godly learning and wisdom that is from God, and distinguishes between worldly and Godly wisdom.  There is no amount of worldly learning and/or degrees that will lead one to the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).  The Word emphasizes the need not to be misled by “deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (2 Col. 2:8).  An amazing discourse by the Apostle Paul is found in 1 Cor. 1:18 and following through chapter 2.  He contrasts worldly wisdom versus Godly wisdom and ends with the statement that should be characteristic of all born-again Christians: “But we have the mind of Christ.”

No one through worldly wisdom can know God.  Only through the Holy Spirit can we access the wisdom of God and really understand who Christ is and God’s purpose for His creation.  Only the Holy Spirit can lift the veil, open the eyes of our hearts and reveal to us “True truth,” as termed by Francis Schaeffer.

So, our education system in the U.S. is changing considerably in the digital age.  Much of it good, but much of it not.  It probably will not change our standing among industrialized nations in which our students rank 16th in science and 23rd in math.  Compared to students, amazingly, in the early part of the 20th century, we seem to be going from “dumb to dumber.”  But that pales in comparison to not being number 1 in knowing Christ.  Regardless of worldly education, we are no doubt the “dumbest” without the wisdom of God.

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