What Makes You So Smart?

I like to think that I am smart. I don’t believe it in the way that the blonde girl down at the pub thinks she’s smart because she watches shows on The “Learning” Channel, which teaches as much as a retired and decrepit babysitter, though. I like to think that I am smart because I constantly break the world down into patterns of numbers and shapes far more complex than the average person. I play the guitar and view the neck, not for the strings or frets, but for the imaginary notes that aren’t printed or spaced in real patterns that people normally see. I can’t explain it to anyone, let alone my guitar students, but that’s how I see it. I look for the basic building blocks of the visible reality and try to understand what it is that I see.

But does that make me smart? No. No, that makes intelligent. I have the knowledge to understand, or at least try to understand the world around me and that makes me intelligent.

So what makes me smart? A lot of people will tell you that the two are synonymous, but they are wrong. I am smart because I know that I don’t know it all and what I don’t know, I strive to learn. That is what makes me smart.

I have wanted to be a teacher for quite a long time, now, but every day, I read articles like THIS ONE, and I feel my interest in it waning. The article is a good read, and it’s logical as well. Of course, it became liberal propaganda near the end, but the points still stand. We are living in an age of ignorance. No matter how many people say that the general population is getting smarter, they will be wrong. The next time you visit your grandparents, ask them if they have any old school papers. If they do, read them over and ask what grade they were in when they took that test, or did that homework or classwork or pop quiz. More often than not, you’ll find that your grandparents were studying in fourth grade what you were studying in tenth, if you’re older than twenty. If you’re younger than twenty, they did in fourth grade what you did in twelfth. If you’re not even in tenth grade, they did in fourth grade what you will do in your first year of college.

We are losing our minds, and it’s our own fault.

When I was younger, my mother wanted me to join the military. I told her that I didn’t want to. When she asked me why, I told her that I didn’t want to protect a country that cares more for its nail-polish and designer sunglasses than its intelligence and education. That still stands, and its stance is getting stronger every day.

An Open Letter to the Discovery Channel

When I was growing up, I watched the Discovery Channel more than any other channels combined. I used to love the knowledge that I gained by watching these shows that took me to underground caverns, to monasteries in the mountains and to the plains of Africa. I went out of my way to educate myself with the documentaries that the Discovery Channel aired. I firmly believed with my heart and soul that the world was just awesome.
In 2009, I moved to Australia with a friend. During that time, I did not have a television, internet or even a radio. I spent most of my days pining for shows such as Dirty Jobs, How It’s Made and Mythbusters. Occasionally, we would visit a friend who had a DVR, and he frequently recorded shows from the Science Channel, such as Discovery Magazine. From his DVR, I would get my “documentary fix”. When I returned to the U.S., the first thing I did after unpacking was to turn on the television to the Discovery Channel, hoping to see a documentary. What did I find? I found a marathon of The Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush and to put it plainly, pure and absolute drivel. There is no discovery in these shows. There is no education in these shows. What made the Discovery Channel into the Discovery Channel had disappeared in the same way that the music has disappeared from Music Television.
Before I went to Australia, shows like Whale Wars were in much fewer numbers. I was surprised to see that show on air to begin with, because it is nothing but a bunch of murderous eco-terrorists having their eco-egos stroked by being on television. I did not bother with it, though, because it was indeed a rarity. Deadliest Catch was picking up in popularity and aired with more frequency, but I did not bother with it, because there were only a few episodes aired every few days. I should have noticed the trend at this point. The time spent on documentaries and travelogues began to dwindle, as did my interest in the channel. I went to Australia and stopped watching television altogether except for the rare occasion when I visited my friend and his DVR.
Upon my return to the U.S., finding out that shows that offered no discovery, no education and nothing past a group of sweaty men cursing at each other over crabs and gold, I was devastated. There has been a long-running joke about The Learning Channel and how there’s nothing there to learn anymore, but the Discovery Channel? I would never have dreamed that my favorite channel, my favorite center of learning could sink so low. I have become ashamed to admit that I used to love this station. I mention to new friends that I watched the Discovery Channel and there are two predictable reactions. 1.) “Oh, I’m sorry.” and 2.) “Oh, Deadliest Catch, yeah?”
I am sorry, but the world is no longer “just awesome”. When one of the greatest centers of learning outside of schools and libraries has allowed itself to degrade itself to the depravity of twenty hours per day of sweaty men cursing at each other through a collective amount of twelve teeth, there is nothing about the world that is “just awesome” anymore. I am proud to say that I no longer watch the television.
Thank you, Discovery Channel, for shattering my faith that the world is still willing to teach itself.