Imperialism and the Stupid Show

John Steppling:

There is also today a crisis in education. And it is intimately related to the environmental crises. Informally I have spoken to educators in Norway, where I live, and they are both frightened and appalled at the loss of cognitive skills, the erosion in writing and even speech, in students at the high school and college level. Students, they say, cannot understand even simple verbal instructions. They cannot concentrate for very long and are easily distracted. And they can barely read.


Jon Stewart has delivered a scathing rebuke of Congress and its handling of benefits for 9/11 first responders and victims, telling US lawmakers their “shameful” inaction is “an embarrassment to the country”.

Stewart, the comedian and former host of The Daily Show, has been a forceful proponent of legislation providing federal funding for medical treatment for survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks.

I read the Steppling essay this afternoon. When reading The Guardian this evening I had to read the article’s headline several times followed by the first couple paragraphs to confirm the subject of the article was indeed what it sounded to be.

Steppling ends with “Education is critically important, and stopping the extreme privilege of the elite class”  in the same way Giroux often ends essays with prescriptions for improving American education which in no way shape or form are going to be followed. The trend, in fact, seems to be if anything an accelerating dumbing down. This reminds me again of Natoli’s observation that the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back. For years I’ve been hearing acquaintances refer to what they’ve just seen from comedians like Stewart or John Oliver as if this had some import, but I’m increasingly realizing that I’m still not really grappling with the implications here. People whose primary sources of information on the world are videos and sound bites have no way of gaining any sort of perspective on the fact that their primary sources of information on the world are videos and sound bites, and this is only changing for the worse. I am realizing that what I need to be reading are not recommendations which will never be followed but rather thoughts on how best to live in this brave new world.

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