‘D’, I don’t subscribe to the notion that men of the 19th century were any more intelligent than those of the 21st or the 12th or any other century. The difference is the kind of education and experience. I graduated with several scientific/technical degrees and was not long in the world until encountering graduates of the liberal arts course of study. Fully committed with family and work, I embarked upon the University of Chicago’s wonderful GREAT BOOKS self study program and four years later, found myself well equipped with a superior liberal arts education. Liberal in this sense isn’t the polar opposite of conservative but liberal in the sense of being well grounded in the works of the great thinkers, many of which the framers of our Constitution studied. Shortly later, I was engaged in service to this country that eventually took me from Pole to Pole and many of the countries in between. The opportunity to see how various peoples organize (or disorganize) themselves with their societies and governments is an education unto itself and I tried to provide my children with a component of their educations not unlike the Grand Rounds of past millennia European education where by a young man and his tutor would travel to major cities and study government, agriculture, technology, etc. The Liberal Arts, Science and Technology, and Travel, taken together are a wonderful base upon which to build a professional education in the law or medicine or even political science. I continued to learn while teaching my children and decades later when I could resume professional studies; I was at least on par with my younger peers.
I began high school with a slide rule and graduated from college with a HP65 scientific calculator. Big technological changes in our society were touted, and we were somehow, ‘more advanced’ than all other generations. We have computers and fire; the caveman had only fire, so were deemed ‘more advanced’. Our children no longer learned how to do math in their heads and with pencil and paper but on a graphing scientific calculator – and they’re more advanced?? What hooey. If I ran the Department of so called Education, my first action would be to require every teacher to have a substantive degree in the subject manner they teach, not a watered down major in education with minimal substantive knowledge. My next action would probably to abolish the department. Struggling to achieve a measure of self-reliance, I admire previous generations in their general knowledge of what is important and loathe the fact that we have lost that focus.
No, I don’t think we’re any more or less intelligent than our ancestors. I think we simply lost focus on what is really important.