Stories of the dumbing down of ordinary people were flying thick and fast last night as I was chatting with a couple of women who work in a local travel agency. They had run into multiple incidences of people who thought Cape Cod is a small town, not a geographic place, a peninsula that is 70 miles long. My favorite of their stories was the man who was disappointed about not being able to take a whale watching boat trip because of bad weather who asked, "Where do the whales go when it's raining?"
The women cited instances of simple ignorance, someone driving from Canada heading for Texas who somehow ended up at a mid-Cape travel info center and wanted directions for driving to Dallas. As if maps had never been invented or they didn't know how to read one. And then there was a tourist who wanted to know if the ocean out there was the Atlantic or the Pacific. Another tourist wanted a room in "the hotel" [as if there is only one] and wanted to be sure to have a view of "the mountains."
Then a couple of non-tourist, just young and ignorant instances: the young Dunkin Donuts clerk who was asked for "a half dozen assorted donuts" who neither knew what a "half dozen" is or what "assorted" meant. And another young person who asked the time and was told "a quarter after one." She then turned to a friend and said, "What's that mean?" The friend had to say "one fifteen." The first person could only read digital clocks. Making change is a major problem, too, for many young people unless they can enter totals into a cash register that tells them how much change to give the customer. I've seen instances of people who do not know what a paragraph is and have no grasp of punctuation at all and I run into the use of texting abbreviations in email all the time.
Our public schools are graduating these people without basic literacy. I do not know what they DO understand, although I think they can follow the words of rap music which I cannot do. It was a "to hell in a handbasket" kind of discussion. I laughed a lot but it was only superficially funny. These young people are going to be the voters in the next election -- if they are made aware that this is something they actually are expected to do. What will they know about making choices? What will we get for for leaders?
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