May 01, 2012

Woody Allen in Annie Hall

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character time-travels back to his old public-school classroom.

“€œI always felt my schoolmates were idiots,”€ he declares.

On cue, a staring, slack-jawed kid drawls, “€œSeven and three is nine.”€ Cut to Young Schoolboy Woody, slapping his forehead in disgust.

Watching that scene for the first time on my thirteenth birthday was a life-changing moment.

Someone else felt the same way I did! And he wasn”€™t “€œin trouble,”€ he was a famous movie guy!

I finally felt free to fearlessly articulate something I”€™d intuited since my first day of kindergarten, a three-word “€œkey to all mythologies”€ which ironically turned out to be the most important lesson I ever learned in school:

People are stupid.

If I ever spring for a coat of arms, that”€™ll be the motto emblazoned across the bottom in Latin”€”populus stultus“€”beneath three dunce caps and a pair of turkeys rousant.

“€œIf we”€™re still capable of wondering if we”€™re all getting dumber, how dumb can we really be?”€

I”€™d pictured school as a calm, quiet place where obedient children sat bolt upright at cute little desks and cheerful teachers doled out fascinating facts.

Instead, I was stuck sitting cross-legged in a cinderblock room with purple industrial carpeting. The boys played “€œsword fights”€ with yardsticks and the whispering girls didn”€™t listen”€”not that the droopy teachers were saying anything worth hearing. When one teacher stumbled repeatedly while trying to get us to memorize the lyrics to “€œEaster Parade,”€ I took it upon myself to explain to her and the class what the word “€œrotogravure”€ meant.

Yeah, I was that kid.

I thought I had it bad back then, but am I the only one convinced that these days, the half-baked are cooked all the way through? That is, that the dumb are getting even dumber?

Apparently not. Earlier this year, The New York Times held a sort of symposium on the subject, asking, “€œAre People Getting Dumber?“€ Distinguished participants included James R. Flynn, he of the famous Flynn Effect, the startling discovery that worldwide IQ scores are apparently inching upward.

“€œOn an IQ test, the average person today would be 30 points above his or her grandparents,”€ Flynn declares. Hell, he could”€™ve saved a lot of number-crunching and just spent an afternoon with my grandma, who couldn”€™t figure out why that stupid little man in the hockey game didn”€™t just move away from the net.

Flynn assures us that despite what our senses tell us, the populace isn”€™t increasingly senseless.

“€œBut are we smarter?”€ he asks rhetorically. “€œThat’s a more complicated idea.”€

Subscribe to Taki’s Magazine for an ad-free experience and help us stand against political correctness.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!


Daily updates with TM’s latest