The Dumbing Down Of America

By: Doug Hagin

Is America getting more stupid? Are Americans, largely, becoming more clueless and less thoughtful? Well, ask just about anyone, and you will likely hear him or her exclaim “YES!” I must say I agree with them. Like it or not, it has become very clear that Americans are thinking less, and are seemingly desirous of a very structured life where everything they do is scripted.
A trend I have seen over the last 17 years working in the restaurant business is very real and extremely troubling. Now I am not, nor would I ever proclaim that we Americans are less intelligent than any other people are across the globe. Quite the contrary, I would gladly put our collective intellect against any other nations in a second.

The issue, it seems, is the lack of common sense many of us are using. We do not think before we act often times. Too many of us seem to live such insulated existences that the concept of the presence of other people is a foreign one. You see, it in the way we drive. I was taught to drive and to be watchful of other drivers. I have avoided countless accidents because I was aware of other drivers and was prepared to react. Many drivers today seem too involved in talking or changing a CD or eating their lunch to be aware.

So what is causing this collective clueless ness? As I previously stated, I have worked since 1989 in the restaurant business. In that time, I have, naturally met and interacted with thousands of people. I have worked with hundreds of waiters, bartenders, managers, bussers, cooks, etc. The intellectual depth of those people has shrunk dramatically over recent years. When I first started as a bartender I was trained by a woman who was brilliant, she taught me the right way to make drinks, wait on guests, and stressed the importance of injecting my own personality into my job. Over the years, I have trained many bartenders and always tried to pass on the lessons I learned.

Today, the training of servers and bartenders is largely not to teach them quality, but to teach them to read scripted greetings and to practice suggestive selling. Instead of encouraging thinkers, chain restaurants, tend to micro-manage and script everything their employees do. As I have been told, the idea is to simplify the job so that any idiot can do it. Well, the problem is that approach tends to insure that pretty soon only idiots will be doing the job.

It is a form of Marxism, and we all are well aware of how Marxism has utterly proven a failure don’t we? This system does not reward excellence or thinking, in fact, often times it punishes it. Intelligent people quickly become bored as they come to realize that they will not only not be cited for being a better employee, but will actually suffer for it. No business can be its best if it discourages excellence can it. It only dumbs down the employees, which effects, in a negative fashion, the service, which further hurts the service as tips lower.

Likewise, as I talk to Americans in other lines of work they share similar stories of rewarding mediocrity, and discouraging thinking. This will, of course, lead those businesses to lose their edge as well. The conventional wisdom, apparently, is to script everything employees do, so thinking is not required. As thinking diminishes, intellectual depth suffers as well. Boredom and complacency sets in, and that is not, nor will it ever be, a recipe for success.

The fear that possesses these companies which try to micro-manage their employees, is one of their employees will say or do the wrong thing. Therefore, instead of risking such a calamity, they attempt to insure their employees never act with any intelligence or independence. Ever tried to get simple answers from a customer service agent, waitress, or sales associate. Now you know why, they are not supposed to know a whole lot; they are not supposed to think.

Let me share an example with you. About a year ago I attended a bar manager meeting for a company I worked for. All the bar managers from across the country were there. One night, at dinner, we asked a server if she knew where a good jazz club was in the area. “I am new to the area” she responded’ I am not sure, let me go ask someone who does.” Now some of my fellow managers were appalled at her response. “You never ever tell a guest you do not know!” whined a manager from South Carolina. Now I thought the server gave a thoughtful answer, she was honest, and in fact, returned with directions to a local jazz club. Yet, to my dumbed down colleague her honesty was offensive. All she knew was the waitress did not give some scripted answer like some robot.

Now as more and more businesses devolve into this Marxist approach to costumer service and running their businesses, is it any surprise that this non-thinking becomes more prevalent in society? Throw in the non-education most American children receive in our schools, and factor in the cell phones everyone has surgically implanted in their ears, and it should be no real shock how little common sense we use?

Trust me this sort of non-thinking was not around in the days of our Founders. If so, we would still be a colony. Marxism does not work, not in nations and not in business. The effects on this nation are plain to see aren’t they? Are we becoming more stupid? Yes! Can we blame the senseless pursuit of sameness and conformity in the business world and schools? Yes!

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