Idiocracy?

I have my browser home page set to del.icio.us, and yesterday top on the hot list was an article from SFGate claiming that “the next generation of kids might be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history.” It went on to list the many shocking things that students don’t know and claimed:

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

I tend to discount such articles and claims, believing that they underestimate intelligence or exaggerate ignorance or something must be wrong with the survey questions.

In the evening, I attended a lecture on my campus titled, “Science Under Attack, from the White House to the Classroom: Public Policy, Science Education, and the Emperor’s New Clothes,” by physicist Lawrence Krauss. Krauss made similar claims, this time about adults. Krauss revealed that 50% of Americans believed that the statement, “the earth revolves around the sun and it takes 1 year” was false.

All of this reminded me of the recent but not widely distributed Mike Judge film, Idiocracy. The movie is set 500 years in the future. The premise is that by this time stupid people have reproduced at a far greater rate than the educated elite, and the country is left with idiocracy, rule by the stupid. Language has devolved into a mix of grunts, slang, and valley girl; the most popular tv program is Ow My Balls! As one reviewer put it: “Mike Judge’s future is not the brave new world of Asimov or Clarke. It’s a moronic Jerry Springer hell where the lowest common denominator has become the status quo.”

If you aren’t going to Netflix this second to que up this classic, the kicker is that the lead character (Luke Wilson) is an army librarian from 2005 of average intelligence who is trying to do as little as possible in his job until he can retire. He gets sent to the future (with Maya Rudolph, who plays a prostitute) and even though he’s simply average in 2005 he is the most brilliant person in the country in 2505.

At one point he tells Maya’s character with a mix of faux urgency, irony, and sorrow: “I want you to go back to the past, without me, and tell them to read. Tell them to read a lot of books.”

Spoken like a true librarian. But will it be enough?

5 thoughts on “Idiocracy?

  1. This is a funny movie, but a little scary! The IQ test in the film – “If you have 1 bucket with 2 apples and another bucket with 5 apples, how many buckets do you have?”

  2. In regard to the Krauss lecture, I increasingly wonder if ACRL and ALA aren’t neglecting a great opportunity to advance the cause of information literacy by taking a decisive official stance against the purveyors of “intelligent design.” I can think of few forces in our culture more hostile to an appreciation and understanding of the epistemic value of peer-review than those who actively and essentially prey upon popular scientific ignorance.

  3. Idiocracy is both hilarious and terrifying, and has been a favorite among my cohort for awhile. The attacks at Big Business are so close to home the film was never fully released in the States and I believe the dvd was released in Germany. To be sure, Mike Judge has something to say: he’s absolutely disgusted. It’s hard to perceive the story as distant or fantasy while watching fast food giants subcontract as social services or an energy drink company get tired of dealing with the FCC and FDA and just well, BUY them. It’s silly and not for a PC crowd, but it’s a must see.

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