Catering to Ignorance

I am tired of this country catering to the idiots. Really, it’s not my job or the government’s job to ensure that lazy and ignorant people function in this society. We all have an individual responsibility to learn and understand our surroundings, and it’s our own darn fault if we fail to follow this one basic guideline of human existence.

There’s this theory called Darwinism—some of you may have heard of it, it’s also commonly referred to as ‘evolution’ or ‘natural selection’—that a gentleman by the name of Charles Darwin came up with in the 1800s. This theory can be summed up in one statement: “Survival of the fittest.” According to Darwinism, the best-adapted of a species live longer, and thereby are able to produce more offspring. The less well-adapted die off, leaving less offspring. This process, in the long run, improves the lot of the entire species.

For a long time, Darwinism (which, as far as I’m concerned, is provably accurate—and not at odds with my Christian belief structure . . . fodder for a later rant) applied as much to humans as it did to any other animal on the planet. Those possessing positive strengths—whether intelligence, physical strength, or whatever else—lived longer and produced more children. The less adept died, by any number of causes, and produced fewer children. Humanity slowly improved.

But today we have an almost infinite series of protections to keep the lower echelons of humanity alive, well, and able to make children. We have blunted—if not completely stopped—all the functions of Darwinism. The compassionate, giving side of my personality can’t help but look at that as a good thing—people can live longer, yay!—but my more cold, logical side sees this as a really terrible, frightening thing.

I can give you a million examples of where our society caters to the least-common-denominator. One of the clearest examples is in the realm of public education. Some of my classmates in high school barely functioned at ape-level, and rather than moving them into special programs or a vocational school they simply slowed down the teaching process so that these few students wouldn’t be left behind. Well, in the process of doing that, everybody else in the class missed out on what could have been a lot of education. Not only did the un-educatable not learn much, but neither did anybody who may have actually benefited from all that knowledge.

Don’t you ever wonder why students are taught basic parts of speech every year in English class from about 4th grade through 12th? Because one or two people in every class just don’t get it. They continue to write sentences like, “This are why him run fastly.” The educational difficulties of this small minority do not justify the dumbing-down of education for all students.

The schools should not be catering to ignorance. Persons who learn at a slower pace should not be abandoned, but the remainder should not be punished because some can’t keep up.

But there are less-obvious, yet equally prevalent, examples of this lowest common denominator phenomena elsewhere in society. I see it almost every day on the Metro, Washington, DC’s rail and subway system. At the end of the day, I get off at Vienna/Fairfax/GMU station—the end of the Orange Line. Being an end-of-the-line station, trains generally unload all of their passengers at this point.

Now, most trains will just load back up with people and head back toward DC—but sometimes, after discharging their passengers, they go out of service. When this is going to happen, there is plenty of warning. The message boards that will usually say “New Carrollton” (the destination station at the other end of the line) instead say “NO PASSENGERS.” The train operator flashes the lights and repeats through a PA system, “This train is out of service, all passengers must leave the train. Do not board the train, this train is out of service.”

Pretty simple, eh?

And yet, almost every time I’m around when this happens, I see people getting on the train. Occasionally, some really dense individual will get trapped inside after the doors close and Metro officials have to rescue them. Again, my nice, compassionate said says, “Awe, how terrible! They got stuck in the train.” My cold, logical side says, “What a moron! Why are they letting him out?”

If a combined visual and audible warning doesn’t get the message through, maybe a night stuck on a Metro train would help.

But despite the relative harmlessness of my little Metro example, catering to ignorance can lead to all sorts of problems—in fact, in the Presidential election of 2000 we saw what kind of political and Constitutional chaos it can create. You can read my second Front Page Rant, Arrow Issues (no longer available), for a rundown of my opinions about the oh-so-intelligent voters of Florida and their unreasonable inability to follow arrows from a candidate’s name to a little hole.

Should our country have allowed the inability of some people to follow basic directions cast into doubt the outcome of a Presidential election? I would venture to say no. If you cannot cast your vote properly and by the rules printed on the ballot, than your vote will not be counted. This is not a matter of political affiliation, it is a matter of common sense.

I’m not saying that we should let Darwinism really do its work. The illiterates in high school, the Metro morons, and the Florida voters should not simply be permitted to die. I’m forced to come to a compromise between my compassionate and my logical sides.

There should be warning labels on products. Slower students should be helped along and encouraged to learn as much as they can. Inattentive Metro riders shouldn’t have to camp out on trains. As many votes possible should be counted in elections.

But let’s try to look at this all in a nice, rational way. Some of these warning labels are probably overkill (“Do not use while sleeping” on a hair dryer?). Teaching everybody what a noun is for more than seven consecutive years is probably not necessary or reasonable. Having a committee attempt to discern voter intent from tiny scratches on a punch card ballot is straight silly. Ignorant people can live and function in our society—fine with me—but it’s time we stop bending over backwards for them. It’s costing too much money, wasting too much time, and standing in the way of societal progress.

And Darwin should be required reading in schools, if they can find any time between repeated lessons on parts of speech and sentence form.

Scott Bradford has been putting his opinions on his website since 1995—before most people knew what a website was. He has been a professional web developer in the public- and private-sector for over twenty years. He is an independent constitutional conservative who believes in human rights and limited government, and a Catholic Christian whose beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. He loves Pink Floyd and can play the bass guitar . . . sort-of. He’s a husband, pet lover, amateur radio operator, and classic AMC/Jeep enthusiast.