Dumbing down

From ArticleWorld

“Dumbing down” is a phrase used to describe what is seen as an unwelcome simplification of culture. According to some, the media, education, literature and other arts are “declining” in quality and cultural significance. It is often said that the mass media is responsible for this, pointing to a perceived decline in commentary and intelligent news in favor of flashy, pop-culture-driven “infotainment.”

Over the years, many people have popularized the idea that our culture is in decline, among them Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart and David Manning White. Matthew Arnold wrote in the 1860s, "Culture…is a study of perfection." Many people today see this as an inspiration for the fight against “dumbing down.”


The possibility of anything being “dumbed down” relies on the assumption that there are standards to be recognized in education, art, writing, film, thought, speech, and the media. In fact, many who decry the “dumbing down” of our cultural institutions point specifically to a lowering or ignoring of standards, usually historic, that have guided cultural pursuits in the past. For this reason, many sociologists argue that these standards are subjective and culturally specific, and cannot be used to quantitatively assess the worth of any form of expression. It is argued that no “dumbing down” has occurred, because standards of culture have no basis in objective reality.

Dumbing down in schools

In education the concept of “dumbing down” has focused on grade-inflation and certain courses of study that are considered to be without value. Many people believe that there is an increase in students receiving higher grades for lower-quality work, usually because there is pressure from communities for local schools and colleges to maintain a reputation of high academic merit. Some degrees are also considered to be without real academic value. The social sciences, media studies and many vocational studies have come under fire as evidence of the “dumbing down” of educational systems.