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We’re not really getting smarter

Posted: October 4, 2012 1:21 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Research tells us Americans are getting smarter as time goes by.

According to studies by a guy named James R. Flynn, IQ scores have gone up steadily from the early 1900s to the present. During that time, Americans have gained three IQ points per decade on recognized tests of intelligence.

That’s a truckload of brainpower when you add it all up, but my friend Waylon Fortenberry of Chesterfield County isn’t buying it.

 “You gotta be kidding,” says Waylon. You’re trying to tell me George Bush and Barack Obama are smarter than George Washington. Heck, he founded a whole country, and they can’t even keep it running.”

Waylon tends to boil things down to the simplest form. “Founding” and “first president” are the same to him.

“You want simple proof – in only two words -- that people aren’t getting smarter?” asks Waylon. “OK, here it is:

“Lindsay Lohan.

“Hey, you can throw in Paris Hilton and Charlie Sheen, too. And Britney Spears for good measure.”

“But Waylon,” I replied. “You’re picking out individuals and the researchers are talking about averages.”

“Bull,” he said. “You want more examples?”

“How about all those people you see walking around with multiple body piercings -- rings and studs sticking through every part of them. Are you going to tell me that a bunch of people who drill holes in their tongues and stick bolts through them are smart?

“You never saw Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson or Betsy Ross with a nose ring, right?”

Waylon was on a tear by this time.

“You want to talk about smart or dumb? Jimmy Hoffa disappeared 37 years ago and they keep digging up everybody’s yard in the Midwest trying to find him. How smart is that?

“And how bright is it that football teams win games and their fans decide the best way to celebrate is to riot and burn down a few buildings and turn cars over and maybe send a few dozen people to the hospital by stomping on them?”

You know, Waylon was starting to make a lot of sense, and he wasn’t about to be stopped.

“Hey, Glenn, you ever watch Wheel of Fortune? They got people on there so dumb that all the letters except one can be turned over and they still can’t get the puzzle right. All they want to do is say, ‘I’m married to my beautiful wife Charlene, who’s also my best friend.’”

Finally, Waylon couldn’t help but pick on me a bit.

“Here’s the ultimate proof that we are not getting smarter. At the University of North Carolina -- that’s your alma mater, Glenn -- the use of the word ‘freshman’ has been banned because university officials say it is offensive and discriminatory against women. I rest my case.”

Waylon was finally running out of steam but had one more thing to say: “I’m going to give you four more words to prove beyond a doubt that mankind is getting dumber, not smarter.”

“OK, I’m ready,” said I.

“Here goes,” Waylon said. “Four words:

“Nancy Pelosi. Rush Limbaugh.”

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