now reading: Empire of Illusion
Friday, August 2, 2013 at 11:07
Eric in books, children

I don't know how I stumbled across this excellent book, but Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle has been an enlightening read, although a bit sad.

I've heard of "celebrity culture" before, but I had never really understood the impact of it. Think of the hundreds of millions of people who are functionally illiterate, who've never read a book after high school (or college), who watch endless reality television shows and know more about the manufactured world of celebrities than the real one. 

The vocabulary and grammar of US Presidential elections have steadily decreased over the ages. In Lincoln's time, only someone with the education of a high school senior would be able to fully understand the discussion. Obama caused a small bump, but in the Kerry-Bush debates it had sunk to a 6th grade level.

The steady dumbing-down of society is not limited to the United States, but it is the general focus of the book. 

Rather than living in the real world, more and more people live in the manufactured make-believe world.

Only 20% of American families buy one or more books every year, and half of Americans can't read something beyond an 8th grade level.

On a very practical and personal note it makes me quite happy to know that a huge benefit to raising kids outside of the specter of American society is that the firehose of celebrity and consumer culture is reduced to a dripping faucet. 

Reading material like this makes me think of best-intentioned parents questioning our decision to distance our children from the typical American upbringing. More and more I find myself turning the raised eyebrow back at them, wondering about their rationale in staying in it.

Article originally appeared on Rebel Heart (http://www.therebelheart.com/).
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