Wednesday, March 11, 2009

going soft

Have you seen that new Disney movie, WALL-E? 

I saw it with a friend when I was in Tokyo this past New Year's. 

In a futuristic world, people have left Earth and are floating about on a gigantic spaceship. Hundreds of years have gone by since the evacuation, and the future generation all look roly-poly and full of jell-o. Their sustenance comes through shakes in containers resembling those horrible Big Gulps. I think the aim of the movie was to warn the little kiddies and their obliging parents that continued waste and consumerism will ruin the physical state of the Earth and of our bodies. 

However, I don't think we need to go hundreds of years into the future for this kind of thing. Sure, we don't have trash skyscrapers or jell-o bodies yet, but think of how wobbly our intellects have become-- in general. Using American standardized tests or average high school students' writing as indicators. Writing is simply not enforced like it used to be.  Neither is math. And instead of colleges, we have 'factories of American higher education,' where kids are encouraged to waste time and money on increasingly frivolous material. 

The best grades still tend to go to the kids who put in an honest and intelligent effort, but the kids who do any work at all still get enough points to pass. And why? Is it because there are too many low achievers? Or is it because they're all paying tuition, and are entitled to "get" what they pay for? 

The result, I think, is a sort of degree inflation. There once was a time when high school graduation was a big deal, and only a few, clever people went on to college. They became doctors and teachers and scientists. Now, even basically illiterate people can graduate from high school, and college is less a question of "if" as a question of "when" and "where." Bachelor's degrees are flooding out as student money and loans are flooding in. These days, graduate and other specialized schools (law, medical) are where you need to go to get a competitive edge, and who knows how long that will last? Production was outsourced, and administration can be as well.

I don't have any answers tonight, but I think the value of a solid education can't be overemphasized. 

Also, stay away from those Big Gulps. **shiver**

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