One of the most interesting things that I have noticed about the cultural wars is a specific part of the disagreement between lefties and righties. Lefties believe that people are getting smarter, righties dumber. As to the first, consider this. As to the second position, consider this.
Both cannot be correct, obviously. But as with most things, the truth is not so simple. From what I have concluded, both are a little bit right, but the righties are more right.
IQs went up during WWI because governments started adding iodine to salt. Yes, that is evidently true. The problem is, progressives are still riding on that wave. This is why they always go back to 1914 or somewhere around then to talk about increasing IQ. But that was a one-shot deal. Since then, or I should actually say, since the invention of the TV, radio and internet, IQs have shot down as quickly as water down the Niagara, as viewed by a short 6-second clip on your iPhone.
I have always said that I am a genius only because no one else reads. I decided to know more than anyone else at about 15-years-of-age and have never looked back. I have read as many books as an eighty-year-old has and I am only forty-one. A century ago I would be worthy of little more than shoveling coal or delivering big blocks of ice to housewives to stick in their ice boxes, because, a century ago everyone could write in Alexandrines, read Greek, Latin and French, could tell you all about the history of England, France, Persia and the Etruscans, and pin-point lower-upper-eastern New Guinea on a map.
But progressives are obviously interested in proving that progress has progressed. And they point to things like math. "We might not know Latin, but we know calculus," they say, "and that's way more important!"
First of all, we don't know calculus. Second of all, it is not more important.
How is it more important that a bunch of bank tellers, shoe salesmen, secretaries and elementary school teachers know calculus than that they know Latin?
Objectively speaking, math is more important, they say, picking up on Francis Bacon's materialistic reasoning.
And yet I continue, no it's not, picking up on John Henry Newman's liberal reasoning.
I am not a Latin-aholic. I would say exactly what I am arguing but slip in Greek, Hebrew, French, Mandarin. I would also slip in philosophy and poetry.
What disciplines develop the mind better than others? Math taught to pass a test but that is not really understood would be low on the list.
I am not against math. I find it extremely interesting. In fact, more of my mental muscle has been exercised on math this year than on just about anything else (other than on In Design, perhaps). I enjoy math. One of my wishes is to do a math degree. I doubt I will ever get the chance, alas. But if I win the lottery...
Math is the logic of quantities. I have studied logic and it has put me in a position where I was not before I had studied logic/philosophy. I could never have progressed in math before I did my degree in philosophy. Now everything seems, well, if not exactly easy, then possible and matter-of-fact. Let me put it this way: studying a new language involves much more work than studying math. There is much more to learn in the former. Technique and logic have much less to do with learning a language than learning math. Languages, after all, admit of myriad exceptions to rules, math not a one.
Now utility. Math, they say, is useful. Indeed, it is. I use basic math not only every day, but every hour. Basic math. Calculus. Let me see, other than not being qualified to teach advanced math, my ignorance of calculus seems not to have effected my life all that much. Not being bilingual has effected me, but Brazilian Colin would not need to know French, nor even American Colin. Spanish would be far more valuable in the US for a typical person than knowledge of calculus; French more valuable in Canada than calculus.
All subjects - even feminist theory and queer studies - develop the mind. It all depends on how they are studied. Math is a definite mind-expander, but I cannot see how it is so more than history, comparative religion, etc. Even morally beneficial. I believe all disciplines are morally beneficial too. My problem with 'queer studies' is not the subject, but the approach; feminism too. Women and homosexuality are fascinating topics, but I do not study to learn to adhere to an orthodoxy, but to learn the academic lay of the land: the theories, the stats., etc. There is nothing immoral about psychology, or about the chemistry of explosives, about nuclear physics or cancer research. You can't get cancer by studying it.
I will offer this: anyone who posits that we should study math must by the same logic posit the studying of poetry.
But as for progress or regress, what are the politics here? Why would one maintain either one? Because they are advancing an ideology. Star Trek: if you want a future with no disease or poverty, you must give up religion and adopt a doctrine of complete authoritarianism aimed at social engineering, i.e., what the United Nations, the European Union and other lefties are all up to.
Lefties tell us that the past was bad so that we will do the opposite. The past was Christian therefore let's not have any of that. They point to slavery and implicate Christianity in that; they epitomize the Church's relationship with science in terms of the Galileo affair. This would be the equivalent of saying all gays are evil because Rohm was gay (head of the Nazi SA, like the SS). Such insinuations are slanderous, of course, except when they are used against Christians.
Righties are pro-family and pro-Christianity, are therefore tend to idealize the past: they idealize the American Founders, etc., beyond their dessert; lefties villainize American history beyond its dessert.
But it doesn't take much looking to realize that the West is in trouble, if our subject is IQ, that is. People don't read. Kids don't read. People always have their stupid phones in their faces. This is a generation of idiots. Therefore, in this regard, the left is wrong. What a surprise!