Idiocracy is a painful 2006 satire by Mike Judge, the guy responsible for making the boys in my dorm hog the t.v. whenever Beavis and Butthead came on. The movie stars Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph which seems to bode well for its humor. Unfortunately, the ball punching slapstick is a little hard to sit through.
It’s no Fahrenheit 451, but Idiocracy’s prediction of the future is part of what makes it hard to watch, mostly for its painful accuracy.
I find myself frequently referencing to my colleagues a particular scene early in the film. The scene depicts two different scenarios: a couple that is well-educated, thoughtful, and planning ahead before having children; and an uneducated, impulsive set of people who basically reproduce at the drop of a hat (pants). The result is an overpopulation of thoughtless individuals raising equally thoughtless children who will simply continue the cycle because none of them will ever recognize themselves in a sociology textbook. The couple who wants to make a stable home life, prepare emotionally and financially before having kids, dies before they can reproduce.
The narration for the scene starts as such:
“As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species. ”
(My apologies for the poor clip quality. It seems to prove that nobody liked this film enough to put more clips on YouTube.)
Seventeen years of working with the public and their offspring supports my theory that Idiocracy was on to something. I realize that an emotionally and financially stable ( I do not equate this with wealthy) household with a plan for the future will not always produce good humans, but it sure as hell seems to help when parents actually think about how they are going to be active parents. The students coming from this environment generally have their academic and social priorities a little more together. They can see cause and effect, acknowledge consequences, and generally are capable of having rational conversations. They’re not perfect by any means. In fact, some of them are entitled little pricks because they are the “haves” rather than the “have not’s.” However as a broad group, they are the kids that you’re happy to see in class, and their mommies fill up all the time slots at Parent Teacher Conference night.
Unfortunately, the parents who don’t show up at Parent Teacher Conference night, never answer their phones, never return an email, and generally view public education as 7-8 hours of free babysitting rather than an opportunity for their kids are the ones producing the cast of Idiocracy. I acknowledge that this type of parent exists amongst the “haves,” often producing the entitled brat. I also acknowledge that many parents are desperately trying to provide stable home environments for their kids and that the priority there is usually money based which may mean long and difficult work hours which in turn prevents them from showing up in my classroom.
However it begs the question: If your life isn’t stable then why are you having more and more kids that you can’t take care of? Babies cost money, time, physical energy, and mental/emotional energy.
If parents can’t afford to invest any of those things then I get students who:
- have a family tree so twisted that no one in the building is sure of who the biological parents are much less the “guardians,” and of the 5 “siblings” in the school building there are at least 3 different last names between them.
- require me to lower my classroom behavioral and academic standards to the point where there really is no point.
- solve problems by screaming obscenities at their peers and physically assaulting them.
- would rather sleep, shout out things like “FDB” ( fuck ‘dem bitches), and try to nail other students in the balls rather than engage in any type of non-screaming conversation.
- seem like they need reminders on when to breathe ( in, out, in, out).
- are being raised by Grandma who expects everyone to refer to her as Mom because the real Mom is “Done” with the kid, dead, in jail, or simply unaccounted for.
- drop out to INTENTIONALLY get pregnant (while living with Grandma/Mom) and then show back up at school expecting me to congratulate them on having functioning reproductive organs.
- cannot see life beyond SnapChat and shrieking about “OMG, did you see what she just posted!!!!”
- are just waiting for Jerry Springer and his bouncers to show up so that their lives are complete.
(I cannot make any of this shit up, people. Additionally, don’t assume that I work somewhere ghetto-fabulous; I work in what is considered a good school district with a wide socioeconomic range and cultural diversity. )
These are the students who will go on to bypass further education ( which is completely unaffordable for most people anyway) and/or learning solid job skills that will help to support them. They will reproduce first and most frequently because “love” outweighs the price of a box of condoms and good sense. I guess it is a sad job security for me.
This rant was not prompted by frequent viewing of Idiocracy; I actually can’t stand watching it beyond the family tree scene. It was prompted by an NPR story that I heard while getting ready for school. The story was suggesting that the Millennial generation is gun shy of marriage before creating a family.
The news report then went on to play out the family tree scenario from Idiocracy. It featured an educated couple who are trying to plan ahead financially and emotionally before getting married, much less reproducing; according to the article they represent only 9% of parents 35 and under. Fifty-five percent of parents 35 and under was represented by the woman who already has one child by a man who left her. She then accidentally got pregnant again with a new boyfriend. Her best job: pizza delivery person. Her response to another unplanned pregnancy:
“We think we mistimed something,” she says. “But it wasn’t really, like, a bad time, or, I don’t know … it just … seemed like an OK thing to do?”
My students could not have said it better. Welcome to Idiocracy.
To read the NPR article: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/16/354625221/for-more-millennials-its-kids-first-marriage-maybe