America: an Educated, Yet Illiterate Nation

Topics: Philosophy, Plato, Federal government of the United States Pages: 5 (1875 words) Published: July 20, 2008
As we continue to discover and invent new technologies and sciences, people have progressively become mentally confined and have lost the ability to individually think and analyze. A particularly deleterious trend that has been plaguing our society is the decline of questioning and analysis of our world – what we hear, what we see, what we learn, etc. The American populace is thinking and analyzing less; they are now used to having the media feed them not only current information and news, but also provide them with a so-called analysis of that or stuff their minds with catchy advertising that prohibits thought. As we become more mechanized, technological, specialized and money-focused, we tend to de-emphasize the studies of history, culture, philosophy, and humanities. This has led to a state of critical philosophical illiteracy and ignorance regarding history, other countries, different people, and varying ideas in our culture. This weakens our societal structure since we see so little of the big picture that is the world today. Without the broad exposure to the world of ideas, we have limited mental tools for seeing contemporary situations in the proper context. Our viewpoints and behaviors tend to be more narrow and self-serving and we see alternative forms of expression as being "bad", "boring", or "strange" instead of interesting. Our tolerance for variety is diminished and our judgmental natures are reinforced. In effect, the lack of philosophy, caused by the overbearing role of media, in our culture leaves us our nation divided, depressed, and dismally near failure. The increasing intolerance that results from the collective philosophical illiteracy can be best seen in the American political and social atmosphere. Currently, America is facing trying times: the American people are increasingly split by disparate political and social opinions. For example, the election process for officials in the American government lends itself to a two party system, with different views on various political and social situations. The media and certain political “spin-doctors”/masterminds have exaggerated the differences between the two parties (Democrats & Republicans) and insinuated that participation in either party seemingly requires a citizen to have ALL of the views of that party. Since the populace takes the media’s messages at face value instead of assessing the true issues behind the political ads and “analysts,” there are now giant rifts within the populace. Democrat and Republican affiliated citizens view each other as near-enemies and dub each other with such extremist epithets as cowardly, bleeding-heart liberals to crazy, fanatical conservatives. This separation is causing disunity within the Union that America is; this fracturing of the populace can be blamed on the general illiteracy. Has the American culture contain an exposure to philosophical ideas, this dangerous rift would not have occurred. For instance, some Sophists, who were traveling philosopher-teachers when Athens ruled supreme in Greece, taught the idea of relativism. They taught that what one considers to be “right” in one case, does not apply in another case. These philosophical ideas can be applied to today’s controversial topics: we cannot unilaterally say that abortion is wrong for everyone – there are cases when some can argue that it is as well as other situations where some can argue that it may be necessary. However, an even bigger issue is the use of political attack ads. These concentrated 30-60 second segments issue forth a torrent of political propaganda and stop people from mulling over the issues at hand. Not knowing these ideas and having limited philosophical exposure, many Americans think of political groups as wrong and evil, rather than simply acknowledging their disagreement. Our culture currently does not allow shades of gray; instead, we are told to choose between red and blue or right and left; if relativism played a more...

Cited: Murray, Bob and Alicia Fortinberry. “Depression Facts and Stats.” Uplift Program. 8 June 2008.
Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. 6th ed. Belmond, CA:
Wadsworth, 2007.
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