American kids are not stupid

It is often said that for example Americans are dumb, stupid , and superficial.  Schools here get criticized for the wrong reasons in my opinion—kids failing tests or not getting into colleges, or you’ll hear someone lamenting how, “our kids don’t do Algebra like the Japanese do”.   This is wrong thinking for two reasons.

First , figuring things out, and creative thinking are very much part of intelligence.  America is one of the few countries in which there is some appreciation in middle class society for the arts as a profession. As far as figuring shit out, America by far has more self-made millionaires than anywhere else—some of this is cultural, but nonetheless you can’t be “dumb” and create wealth and success. There’s more to enabling a kid to be smart than memorizing formulas or being able to name random capital cities.

The second way that this is wrong thinking is that it causes kids to be labeled as dumb, stupid, or lacking because of SAT tests, or what college they’re getting into.  This is an area in which I hope that the United States doesn’t become like the rest of the world.  In some countries if you tell your parents that you want to be anything other than a doctor, accountant/corporate manager or something related to computer engineering, it will be a family crisis.  Many African men consider anything that is not a hard science “foo foo” (direct quote).

This is unfortunate, and I hope that the USA doesn’t follow in that direction.  It would be the wrong model. Sir Ken Robinson put it best, and I hope you can spare 20 minutes to listen to him:

Lil’ Wayne sucks! Snobbery and Web 2.0

There’s a kick-ass recent article at Wired magazine about How Social Media causes Unrest.  It’s an interesting topic, one that I have academic interests in.  However, another tangent in it caught my eye, when it went off talking about Ryan Raddon aka Kaskade, the House DJ:

Electronic dance music is still something that you have to find,” Raddon says. “It’s not on the radio, it’s not on TV. These people really had to search me out.” And the sense of shared community this engenders cannot be overstated. Ten years ago, the dance music scene was finely sliced into such an interminable array of genre divisions that it became a joke: aquatic techno-funk, down-tempo future jazz, goa-trance, hard chill ambient, techxotica, and so on. In the past decade or so, though, despite all the ways that the Internet encourages music to nichify, the rise of social media has actually pushed electronic dance music in the opposite direction. Witnessing its sheer numbers, sensing its collective power, the dance scene has reunified, becoming more of a mass phenomenon—an undifferentiated subculture of millions. It turns out that the thrill of collective identity, a moblike feeling of shared enormity, is far more exciting to fans than were their endless dives down rabbit holes of sonic purism.

This is interesting, and what I’d like to ask readers, is how has social media changed your entertainment consumption habits?  For me, I think  it has increased the depth of my consumption, but it has whittled down the breadth.  Let me use TV and music as examples.

My TV viewing habits–I don’t have Cable, I refer to “TV” generically here–used to be more random than they are now.  Right now, 90% of stuff that I watch is sports, documentaries on astronomy & nature, and Japanese anime. That’s pretty much it—once in a while I might get caught up in watching something else like when I finished the entire series of Heroes in one and a half weeks, or Spartacus, the best show on TV bar none.  However, within the stuff that I do watch, there is more variety.  I don’t listen to R&B, country, alternative, reggae,  gospel, etc music at all, they compose like probably 1% of what I listen to, whereas before I would be more liable to experiment. It’s just that because of media like youtube, when I’m constantly discovering new shit within my preferred genres, namely Hip-Hop, House, Drum’n’Bass and Chill, the variety within those genres that I’m exposed to pre-Social media is a lot more.


One effect I want to avoid though is becoming an entertainment snob. A music snob who wont’ listen to Lil’ Wayne just because he’s on the radio rather than because his voice is annoying, not because he’s on the radio, or hate Gucci because his music is retarded, not because he’s getting play (by the way this notion that music has to be “deeply philosophical and thought-provoking” I don’t know where it came from).  Snobbery is something you see a lot of in Japanese anime, there’s people who pose like they will not touch any English animes (called ‘dubs’ in the anime subculture). WHY? Because they’re purists, and of course Japanese is better and more real.  Now that might be true but how would they know? This gets back to the rabbit hole of purism that is referred to in the snippet from the Wired article above.  Social media goes beyond creating fanboy-ism (harmless) and can start creating tribalistic and cultish behaviors (more alarming).

The other thing that I didn’t get into before going off on the tangent is whether you agree with the Wired article.  Is Social Media a unifying force, or is it a divisive one? An argument can be made for both but what is your experience?