Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Is Western Civilization Doomed?

According to substantial research, approximately 35% of public high school graduates are functional illiterates; the percentage is even higher among those who attempt to enlist in one of the military services. Second, other research studies indicate that approximately 90% of those now teaching in public schools will continue to do so through the year 2015. College professors regularly report encountering functionally illiterate students, some of whom have never read a book, but managed to enter college. Finally, at least one research study of public schools in California suggests that only 35% of each hour in a classroom is devoted to completing an academic task of some kind.

Is there any wonder why the "Dummies" series of self-help books has prospered? Can a civilization built upon literature, music, art and science support millions of illiterate people who couldn't care less about culture and learning?

Still, I understand the situation when I plop down in front of the tube after work too tired to read, unmotivated to paint or play the piano and essentially tapped of energy. Television is the perfect dumbed down slave for wage slaves worrying more about paying the rent than the impending fall of western civilization. Understandably so.

So what happened to the "leisure class" and the 37-1/2 hour work week? One word answer: Productivity. American business and industry has been pushing to squeeze more work out of each of us for the past two decades. The "titans of industry" recognized a survival situation and devised the ultimate survival plan: When you can no longer preserve margins through price increases and the cost of production keeps rising, the only course is to extract higher performance from labor.

You know what? It's working! The American economy has weathered the storms of the Intenet crash, the 9/11 terrorism attacks and increasingly fierce global competition. This has been done at the expense of vacation time, relaxation time and private time. Cell phones link us not only to the social demands of friends and family, but to the after-hours demands of employers as well. E-mail has substituted for hand-written paper letters at the expense of contemplative thought. The Internet, electronic games and television have substituted an altered reality for the one that oppresses us and steals our time.

Think about it...that is, if you have time.

The Stickler


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