The entire idea that the United States is getting “dumber” is ludicrous for a few very good reasons. These reasons are deeply founded in the shift in philosophy of education, or more specifically education’s purpose. In the Modern and Classical era, education was a tool and a means to obtain knowledge. Knowledge in essence, meaning intelligence was had for the sake of having it, for the sake of being knowledgeable.
We do not see this anymore in society. Our society has turned away from the classical ideas of knowledge for sake of knowledge, and is now turning to knowledge for sake of application. For instance, knowing the Western Canon up and down, and being familiar with every philosophical movement to ever spur in western society is largely irrelevant now, when put into context with its ability to be applied to the job market.
Our society no longer desires intellectuals, we do not need smart people, we need trained people. As a result, you see more specific classes available in high-school. In Florida and Georgia, they’re beginning to implement a system very similar to “minor” and “major” in high-school, to give students the ability to put emphasis on careers and career training. No longer are students expected to be well rounded in math/science/English/history: they are now pushed to choose one of them, and place major emphasis on it for purpose of application.
Because of this, you begin to see other skills fade. For instance, if a student is very deep in the study of biological engineering… I sincerely doubt that student needs to be in AP Literature learning the difference between a Shakespearean Sonnet and Spenserian Sonnet. And quite inversely, I doubt a student deep in studying continental philosophy needs to learn the phases of mitosis, just for the sake of knowing them.
The roots of Western Education are spurred from Greece and most specifically Athens. Athens taught Math, Rhetoric, Literature, and Music to prepare their citizens for their ultimate goal, which was participation in the Democratic process. The United States are shaping their citizens for their ultimate goal, which is economic contribution and participation. And that goal does not require a Bachelors Degree in English Composition.
So this “lack of education” that people are screaming about is more so an over-emphasis on education, and again reflects the shifts in philosophy. As the current contemporary philosophy of Post-Modernism dictates: Knowledge is useless in the absence of application. Therefore: What good is education that cannot be applied?
America is not getting “dumber”, it’s becoming self aware of it’s niche and it’s education system is shifting appropriately.