I just read an article about the “dumbing down” of America. It really got me to thinking.

I grew up in a household where intelligence was prized over everything else. The problem was my dad thought he was the only one with any intelligence. No matter how many straight A report cards I brought home or how many honor rolls or societies I got inducted into, it was never good enough.

I will have to say it didn’t stop me from trying to be perfect in every way. Even as an adult, when I now realize how wrong he was on so many fronts, and even though I have come to the realization that no matter how hard I try I will always be miles away from perfection, I still try really hard to get it all right.

I still have yet to impress my dad, I believe. I actually have kind of quit trying, but old habits are hard to break.

As I have gotten older, I have tried to learn things just for me. I thirst for knowledge and love to research almost anything. So I do, but for me, not to impress my dad or anyone else.

I used to have a friend that would get indignant if I talked about anything that she was unaware of. My joke about her (in my head, not out loud.) was that if she hadn’t heard about it, it didn’t exist.

At times now I still hear, “I don’t know what that word means” and I immediately feel like I am showing off because I like to use a variety of words, not just the same few. It has taken me a long time to decide that I am not going to change that to suit anyone else. I am happy to share what it means or you can look it up, but I am not going to stop using interesting words. I love words. I love to read words, write words, speak words, and learn new words. Anyway, I’m not using big scientific terms or anything outrageous- I’m not THAT smart.

In the musical “The Last Five Years” there is a song that says, “I won’t lose, just because you can’t win.” Every performance, my friend who was working backstage with me would look at me and we would mime arrows going through our hearts as those words were sung. We had previously discussed people we knew (women in particular) who do just that. They give up their chances, so as not to bruise the ego of someone they think they love.

God gave each one of us a brain and I think He did that so we will use them. I believe He wants us to learn things, question things (even Him!) and do all that we can with the intelligence He gave us.

Having grown up with someone who valued their intelligence a little TOO much, I don’t think we are meant to throw it in anyone else’s face, but I also don’t think we were made to hide and cower in the corner afraid to offend because we actually know something. There is a difference between being full of yourself and being sure of yourself.

Especially I don’t think we are supposed to hide our smarts because we are female. I know that it is difficult for some of you to imagine that any of us women have any smarts, but guess what?? We do.

So let’s quit hiding from what we know and let’s not be afraid to learn even more. Intelligence isn’t always wisdom and being smart in “book learning” can still leave you with little or no common sense (and visa-versa) but we shouldn’t give up trying to grow in any way we can.

And we should teach, especially young women, to value knowledge. Teaching is one of the most rewarding things I do. When I taught preschool years ago, my main objective each year was to have my students leave wanting to know more, hungry to learn something, anything, and to be excited to move to the next school year. If nothing else, I wanted them to love learning.

In teaching theatre now, I feel like I owe those kids more than just a few games and a pat on the head. I owe them more than just acting lessons. I share my life and anything I can with them.

Knowing stuff doesn’t make us better than anyone else, but knowing things shouldn’t make us feel less than either. None of us can know everything, but we all should know something. So keep reading, keep growing, use new words, and don’t be afraid to stretch your mind.

If we are all in this together, then it should make us all better when any one of us learns something new. We will need all of the clear thoughts and knowledge possible in the months and years to come.

“Dumbing down of America”?? I think maybe so. But let’s try to change that trend. Don’t get exasperated if you don’t know something, look it up! I have to go- I have lots of reading to do!


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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.