Couldn’t Decide 18

Today, I could not decide whether I should post anything or not, because I’m feeling a little bit guilty for neglecting the feast of the Assumption yesterday, though, if you think about it, I shouldn’t. After all, what is Mary’s Assumption about if not hope? Yes, there’s hope for all of us.

… which brings me to my second point. I also could not decide whether I wanted to reblog this illuminating post from a fellow blogger and friend, Trebor Fairwell (pronounced: //’Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd//), or just link to it, which would allow me to elaborate on it here. As you can see, I ended up choosing the latter. 

Trebor asks, “Are you smarter than an eighth-grader?” In 1912, that is. To find out, click on this link and see how well you do on this high school entrance exam — not college, high school.

I’ll share here what I commented there:

There are numerous causes of the dumbing down of public education in this country. I think they can mostly be boiled down to one main contributor, two if we are cynical.

The cynic would insist that education’s demise in this country was simply a matter of orchestrated social engineering. I’m not ruling that out, because in part I think that’s true. But I can’t bring myself to say that’s the primary factor, since it makes more sense to believe that most educators want to optimize student’s learning potential, not inhibit it.

When you look at what has been lost over time and how the standards have been dropped in just over 100 years (as evidenced by this exam), you see a dramatic loss of faith in the mind’s potential, especially with regard to the young person’s mind. As a result, we’ve become skeptics about… just about everything.

Why? Not only because we can’t know (because we haven’t been properly taught); more importantly, because we no longer have the whereabouts to know that we can even know things that used to be taken for common knowledge. For example, just basic knowledge of things like pythagorean triads makes the first question you posted a no-brainer.

That’s why this is scary. We are no longer being taught to use our brains. Then again, why should we anymore? This is why we have Wikipedia, after all.

On the positive side, this exam reflects what we once knew for certain — that we can still be a smarter society if we teach our citizens to apply their mind’s full potential.

Back to my original point, there’s hope for all of us, still.

A third reason I could not decide is that today is the anniversary of the death of “The King.”

Devil in Disguise?

King of Rock and Roll or Devil in Disguise?

The King of Rock and Roll, that is, in case I needed to specify.

Now I’m faced with the problem of tying all this together, and… I can’t. But still, I can’t help ending with a small tribute to Ea-yell-vuhs (that’s Graceland dialect for Elvis).

And that’s why they call him “The King.”

While we’re on the topic of Elvis, take time to watch this cute baby video. You have to watch it to the end. And try not to smile!

And where there’s smiles, there hope!


  1. Pingback: Couldn’t Decide - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

  2. I couldn’t decide which part of your post I liked best . . . loved the Elvis stuff, especially the baby Emma part. I’d seen it before, smiled again . . .
    Interesting commentary on education/thinking/ etc.
    I agree with you–but want to add that I personally believe that a major factor isn’t to do with the educational system at all. I think it is the change in our culture which uses mass peer pressure to switch the gaining of information from books and conversation to television and entertainment, mainly television. Even the brain waves are different watching, and when you start watching at age 3 months . . . well, the neurons and synapses just don’t connect the same way.
    I don’t think it is a conspiracy–it just happened with this marvelous new toy coming into our homes in the 50s. And of course now there are those taking deliberate advantage of it all . . .

    at the risk of being accused of all sorts of things that are not true of me, and I hesitated to even write this–there is one factor that DOES have to do with our educational system. It, too, began with good intentions, and had unintended consequences . . . that is to treat every child in school equally. That sounds bad, doesn’t it, to imply that it is a problem. But what actually happens when you treat each person EXACTLY the same, is that you end up teaching/talking/making policy to the lowest common denominator, so as not to leave anyone behind. This is good, yes, not to leave anybody behind–but those who are gifted, who had advantages and blessings that others’ circumstances did not give them, whatever the reason, those who achieve highly or have more capability of intellect, are held at the same level as the slowest in the class. And they lose interest, do not reach their own potential.

    I saw this in my children’s schooling, where my son, who begged to be taught to read at age 3 and learned it, was so bored in first grade (where he was the only reader, and one of six native English speakers out of 30 children who spoke 8 different languages collectively) that he became a behavior problem and began to hate school. He was just purely bored, learning the alphabet when he could read chapter books already . . .
    I see this daily in my own job today as clerk at a public library, where the insistence that everybody be treated with equality means that I need must demand proofs and treat with suspicion the credentials of a retired couple who have lived in our community for decades the same way I must do with a mentally ill alcoholic homeless person. Yes, they all get their library cards in the end, but . . .

    • No, I certainly cannot deny the impact and influence mass media has had on our culture and our education system. It’s a difficult fight, But we have to maintain our Christian values. And we want to.

      So I think the virtue we need to ask God for is trust. We know he’s in charge. And we know we’re doing the right thing as long as we’re seeking to do his will. Though, as today’s gospel points out, there are consequences to following Christ, let’s remember the happy ones. Christ promises them in this world and the next. God bless you!

  3. Yesterday, after attending Mass for the Feast of the Assumption, I saw a whole bunch of Elvis stuff at a vintage record store here in St. John’s Newfoundland where we’re on vacation. Drats! I should have bought something!!

  4. I’m a visitor from Jessica’s blog.

    Though you couldn’t comment on the Assumption you could have at least commented on today’s feast day King St. Stephan who Christianized Hungary and in his last hours dedicated his country to the Blessed Virgin Mary and he died on the Assumption. Hence his feast day is placed closest to that on the day on which he died. That’s the short version.

    I now issue a challenge to all Catholics who read this blog. Pray a Novena of Rosaries for the Egyptian Copts and all Christians who fear for their lives for their Faith.

    • I’ll be honest with you, Davo. I went back and reread this post and was, to say the least, Not impressed with my own stuff. And I’ll leave it with that.

      Well, Jeff Cavins famously said on his blog — something to the effect of — “So that none of the stupid things I say will go unrecorded.” I know that’s not the exact quote, but I just checked and his blog’s not there anymore…


      And as Hemingway wrote, “The first 7 drafts of anything I write is claptrap” — or something to that effect.

      At any rate, thanks for your observations and for edifying us all with your love for Christ, the Church, and the Christian faith. And yes, let’s pray for our fellow Christians and everyone else affected by the turmoil in Egypt.

      Thanks again.

  5. Wonderful post, James.

    I did just fine on the 1912 test (except for geography: I’m horrible at that).

    And especially: ya gotta love Elvis!
    Heck, I watched “Honeymoon In Vegas” 3 times, …JUST for the Flying Elvises!!


    • I remember the day Elvis died. I was so young, that was actually the first time I’d heard of Elvis. It made a strong impression on me, because the family had just moved from Georgia to Massachusetts and my younger brother was just about to pop his head into the world for the first time, so I was taking in a lot at the time. I was riding in the car with my Dad; Mom was in the hospital; Dad said, “Son, the King has died.” Vivid memory of an ephemeral reality stuck with me for all these years. The sunset on the drive home was beautiful!

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