One of the reasons why things are being dumbed down is the bottom line. School administrators . . . note that I did not use the word educators . . . think dumbing down saves money.
Some parents feel the same way as well. When I was a substitute teacher, I was cornered by a militant parent one day who was against the four tracks that the high school offered: College Prep 1 and 2, Advanced and Honors. She felt less money would be spent on books if all kids were offered the same program. Not really. One-thousand plus students still need one-thousand plus books. Unless having 50 teenagers in a classroom is desirable, the same number of English or history or math teachers are needed.
Furthermore, the kids who are natural mathematicians or natural linguists need to be in a more advanced environment than the kids who need help. However, I did hear on NPR one morning several months ago, of a school that decided to challenge the non-achievers. The kids were put into a Shakespeare class rather than into a class that taught "young adult fiction." Several students were interviewed and spoke into the mic, saying they loved being challenged. That's great but it does not always work and sometimes the kids will sloooooowwwwww the class down. The other thing that happens at the College Prep 2 level (often the lowest level taught with the exception of SPED), the classes include kids with 85-90 IQs and good work ethics along with students with behavioral problems. As a teacher, your heart goes out to the former because school is challenge enough for them without having to deal with awful peers.
Then there are community members who feel it is wrong to challenge slow kids. On another forum, a very vocal right-wing woman talked constantly about the adopted teenagers who lived next door. Supposedly, the kids had IQs in the mid-80s. The writer hated the fact that they were forced to take science courses. I first challenged the writer on how she knew her neighbors' IQs but said that IQs can be raised and that everyone needs to know science these days.
Is it softening people up so that they will be more compliant consumers?
I detest advertising. Advertising all too often uses shaded truths. The classic example is the claim (is it still made?) by Folger's Coffee that it is "mountain grown" because that is the "richest, most aromatic kind." Duh! Most coffee is a high altitude plant. While Folger's isn't lying, the truth is shaded.
But, let's consider Folger's itself. That's a Proctor and Gamble brand. Why isn't it called Proctor and Gamble coffee? The very use of a brand name here is misleading as it often is.
Finally, this particular example enrages me because, as a newly wed, many years ago, a retirement-aged couple were in the coffee aisle at the same time I was. The woman picked up a can of Folger's and told her husband, "They say this is good."
Advertising has damaged several generations of consumers, rendering them less able to make decisions based on their own experimentation with several brands. (Let me digress and say that autodidacts will buy several brands and sample them, so a certain type of person is more apt to experiment and less willing to follow the crowd.)
We need to not only teach government, economics (both were taught at my high school beginning in academic 1964-65), basic accounting and more science at the high school level, but we also need to teach media awareness.