Author Topic: 'An Appalling Report'  (Read 45062 times)

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Homo Aestheticus

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'An Appalling Report'
« on: October 20, 2008, 07:11:33 PM »
ACDouglas  has an excellent comment today:

http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2008/10/gee-what-a-surprise.html

Unbelievable.

And did this whole trend really begin in the 1960's ? 

Offline Joe_Campbell

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2008, 07:27:31 PM »
Most if not all colleges and universities have aptitude tests, so can the college really be expected to offer a refund of a potential graduate fails to make the grade? Why not attack Gyms and Rec Centres for their lack of committed customers? Failing at university or college doesn't mean failing at life, despite what they'd like to make you think.

OTOH, I saw some incredibly suspect "adjustments" to bring class averages higher, and wierd teacher incentives to improve standing with students who didn't like their marks. It was a wierd day when I ended up with over 100% on an exam! No doubt this was to allow for a)more students to pass, and b)collegial bragging rights for student averages.

M forever

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2008, 10:11:49 PM »
http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2008/10/gee-what-a-surprise.html

Since the Sixties, a college "education" after graduation has, for most high school students, taken the place of a saner era's far more sensible and hugely more useful vocational school education; an education that would actually prepare most high school students for a life's work more suited to their intellectual capabilities, and of far more benefit to society as a whole. As it largely was in saner eras, a college education is, or ought to be, an undertaking reserved for a society's intellectual elite exclusively irrespective of that elite's ability to pay which last was, sadly, not often the case even in those saner eras, the availability of scholarships notwithstanding.

Damn right! And let's not forget that in that saner era, black people couldn't go to most colleges at all, no matter how smart they were or not. Those were indeed saner times! People just have to know their god-given places.

Offline lisa needs braces

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2008, 12:39:50 AM »
Most if not all colleges and universities have aptitude tests, so can the college really be expected to offer a refund of a potential graduate fails to make the grade? Why not attack Gyms and Rec Centres for their lack of committed customers? Failing at university or college doesn't mean failing at life, despite what they'd like to make you think.

OTOH, I saw some incredibly suspect "adjustments" to bring class averages higher, and wierd teacher incentives to improve standing with students who didn't like their marks. It was a wierd day when I ended up with over 100% on an exam! No doubt this was to allow for a)more students to pass, and b)collegial bragging rights for student averages.

Well ranked universities graduate an overwhelming majority of their students. But there are hundreds of colleges in the U.S and I'm guessing this problem probably has to do with your run of the mill universities (I attend one of these, so not being an educational elitist here) and community colleges.

I partially agree with the OP. I see far too many students who have been going to college for 6 years or more hoping that a degree will give them better job prospects. And it does! College graduates earn more than non-college graduates on average. But under the current system, even students who aren't academically inclined are encouraged to waste years and money pursuing an "education" they may never complete. Hence why you have so many students avoiding challenging majors like math and the hard sciences ( or Philosophy or even English!) and instead opting for less challenging majors like global studies, sociology or psychology. The point is to have a degree and go through the rite of attending college and then being ready for real employment! A more direct way of funneling students from high school to the workforce would be nice. As it stands, most students today are using college as an avoidance tool. I should say though that I don't entirely embrace the whole genetic determinism thing that Eric is so fond of.

Here's a better article than the OPs elucidating the current educational crisis from a personal perspective:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/college

« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 01:13:36 AM by -abe- »

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2008, 04:23:52 AM »
Since the Sixties, a college "education" after graduation has, for most high school students, taken the place of a saner era's far more sensible and hugely more useful vocational school education; an education that would actually prepare most high school students for a life's work more suited to their intellectual capabilities, and of far more benefit to society as a whole. As it largely was in saner eras, a college education is, or ought to be, an undertaking reserved for a society's intellectual elite exclusively irrespective of that elite's ability to pay which last was, sadly, not often the case even in those saner eras, the availability of scholarships notwithstanding.

Damn right! And let's not forget that in that saner era, black people couldn't go to most colleges at all, no matter how smart they were or not. Those were indeed saner times! People just have to know their god-given places.

Why are you bringing race into this ?   Race has nothing to do with this issue.

Most of us know personally what it means to be below average in athletic ability or spatial ability or musical ability or interpersonal and intrapersonal ability but when it comes to intellectual/academic, (meaning linguistic and logical-mathematical ability) we as a society have difficulty accepting the reality.

Why is that ?

karlhenning

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2008, 04:27:50 AM »
"A saner era" is rose-tinted simplification.

Offline PSmith08

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2008, 06:12:01 AM »
"A saner era" is rose-tinted simplification.

Especially when one considers that there are excellent vocational-technical programs at many high schools. My alma mater, for example, offered everything from journeyman status in welding to Microsoft network certifications. Believe you me, there was no dearth of interested students in most of their programs. The problem isn't whichever theory Eric has grafted on to his "intellectual outlook," which theory is, for whatever reason, his latest idée fixe, but high-school counselors who feel the need to push students into four-year programs. Indiana has a great community-college system and the big state schools (e.g., IU and Purdue) even offer two-year degrees. High schools want better four-year-college acceptance rates, and, for that reason, will send kids to four-year programs when the kids would be better served going across campus to the VoTech or Ivy Tech CC.

While I love a good discussion about the decline and fall of Western culture, I think one is better served by doing a simple cui bono analysis of the situation. Run that calculus, and you'll see that the iron triangle of high schools, colleges, and helicopter parents guarantees college for most and failure for some.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2008, 07:04:47 AM »
Damn right! And let's not forget that in that saner era, black people couldn't go to most colleges at all, no matter how smart they were or not. Those were indeed saner times! People just have to know their god-given places.

Just because things didn't conform to modern day sensibilities doesn't mean people weren't wiser in other respects back in those days.

Offline PSmith08

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2008, 09:27:05 AM »
Just because things didn't conform to modern day sensibilities doesn't mean people weren't wiser in other respects back in those days.

While, as I've said, I'm generally pretty happy to do a whole decline-and-fall thing, I think it's misstating the situation to imply that (1) "modern day sensibilities" on some matters are somehow to be derided, and (2) that there wasn't debate on important topics. For example, without getting into the attendant discussion of merits, the Warren Court managed to spark a lot of debate.

M forever

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2008, 02:55:30 PM »
Just because things didn't conform to modern day sensibilities doesn't mean people weren't wiser in other respects back in those days.

Dr Goebbels would have completely agreed with you.

M forever

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2008, 02:57:16 PM »
Why are you bringing race into this ?   Race has nothing to do with this issue.
"A saner era" is rose-tinted simplification.

greg

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2008, 03:47:10 PM »
ACDouglas  has an excellent comment today:

http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2008/10/gee-what-a-surprise.html

Unbelievable.

And did this whole trend really begin in the 1960's ? 
Sometimes 4-year colleges aren't the best way to go...... 
if you want to make really big money, it's obviously a necessity.
However, you can still make pretty good money. If I come out of school (technical school) in less than a year from now and get internship doing computer programming, and then work for 7 years, i can make $90,000 a year. Not to mention that I'll have school paid off before it's even over (not even $3000 in total, plus i'm working on getting a few hundred or so for financial aid).
Not bad when compared to some of the college degrees that can leave you struggling to find a job and in debt for the rest of your lufe....

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2008, 04:08:41 PM »
Dr Goebbels would have completely agreed with you.

Yes, and it took a "saner" society to oppose and defeat Goebbels and his illustrious superior. I have a feeling our present day society (which is all sanity and enlightenment! praise be our liberal overlords) would probably prefer to roll over and capitulate rather then lose millions in a large scale conflict against a strong tyrant (as opposed to a peep-squeak like Saddam). Do you really think our apathetic and amoral population would even bother to lift a finger to end segregation today? How easy it is to look upon the past with scorn when the hard work has already been done for you.

Homo Aestheticus

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2008, 06:19:44 PM »
People just have to know their god-given places.

But that's exactly how the gods created us. Most of the people in this world are not above average in intellectual ability. And there's nothing wrong with that!

The phrase "many people are just not gifted enough..." would be completely uncontroversial if it described any ability  but  intellectual.

Imagine for a moment that each sentence begins with "No matter how much training I get..."

"I am just not gifted enough to do a somersault with a half twist off the pommel horse" (kinesthetic).

"I am just not gifted enough to understand why someone would choose to compose a piece in B major rather than C major" (musical).

"I am just not gifted enough to see a chessboard in my mind and move pieces on it" (visual-spatial).

"I am just not gifted enough to be a first-rate teacher" (inter-personal).

"I am just not gifted enough to stick with a no-sweets diet" (intra-personal).

None of these tasks is difficult for someone who is well above average in the ability in question. All of them are extremely difficult for people who are around the average. All of them are impossible for people who are well below average, not just difficult, but impossible. To be below average in any ability is to be quite limited in the things one can do. And when children show up at the school room door, 50 per cent of them are below average in every single one of those abilities.

Now apply the same test to the last two abilities:

"I am just not gifted enough to understand text with big words and complicated syntax" (linguistic).

"I am just not gifted enough to factor an equation" (logical-mathematical).

Fifty percent of children are below average in linguistic and logical-mathematical ability. Being below average means that they are limited in the things they can do in reading and maths. It is no more remarkable than being limited in the things one can do in sport or music.

And yet to say such things in public is to invite shock and ridicule.

Again I ask you... why is that ?


Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2008, 06:31:03 PM »
But that's exactly how the gods created us. Most of the people in this world are not above average in intellectual ability. And there's nothing wrong with that!

Easy to say when you are living in a developed nation rich in intelligent and educated folks. It's not so funny when your country has a national IQ average of 85- and everything is screwed up as a result of it.

And yet to say such things in public is to invite shock and ridicule.

Again I ask you... why is that ?

Because once you begin to establish that people are born with different latent abilities, whether mental or physical, and that those abilities are restricted by genes, the next step might lead to notice that certain groups of individuals seem to be more fortunate then others in the prevalence of the specific genetic advantages they receive. Thus, one may begin to notice that among those who score in the highest IQ ranges, Jews, East Asians and Europeans might be vastly over represented, while Black athletes seem to be overwhelmingly popular (and overwhelmingly successful) in most major sport events to a degree which is completely out of proportions with their relative numbers.

This in turn may lead one to suspect that all the "racist" theories so prevalent during the 19th century, the very same theories upon which Hitler based most of his ideas regarding race and civilization, may not have been completely wrong after all. Scary thought, ain't it?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 06:52:26 PM by Josquin des Prez »

M forever

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2008, 07:07:40 PM »
Yes, and it took a "saner" society to oppose and defeat Goebbels and his illustrious superior.

Man, that really cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh. Or maybe it's not a laughing matter. Do you really think that "saner" society - with its "segregated" (what a nice and euphemistic word!) army opposed Goebbels and his "illustrious superior" because of their racism and other more than questionable ideological views and practices? Because they were a "saner" society? Seriously now, do you really believe that? Do you think that the stalinistic Soviet society which contributed most - by far - to winning the war was a "saner" society, too? Could anybody in these "saner" societies speak their mind freely as we can today? Goebbels says: no. McCarthy says: no. Beria says: no.

Do you really think our apathetic and amoral population would even bother to lift a finger to end segregation today?

The vast majority of the population today, no. Just like the vast majority of the population back then didn't bother to lift a finger against segregation. That wasn't an achievement of the majority of people or their "saner" society back then - it was an achievement of a minority against the vast majority of people and their hypocritic society back then.

That is what we should never forget.

How easy it is to look upon the past with scorn when the hard work has already been done for you.

How easy it is to look upon the past when you don't know much or understand much about it. Who says all the "hard work" has already been done? Well, you do.

Offline Josquin des Prez

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2008, 08:34:39 PM »
Man, that really cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh.

I aim to please.

Or maybe it's not a laughing matter. Do you really think that "saner" society - with its "segregated" (what a nice and euphemistic word!) army opposed Goebbels and his "illustrious superior" because of their racism and other more than questionable ideological views and practices?

Yes, that's precisely what i think. It was because our forefathers were evil racist scumbags that they rushed bravely at the front by the droves. But fret not, i'm sure the squalid aggregation of spineless self-serving consumer drones which characterize our current national identity would have done a far better job in their position, particularly considering one of the greatest contributions America offered in the fight against the Axis was the massive mobilization of their industrial might with the purpose of aiding the war effort. All this was possible thanks to "saner" values held during those days. Our current generation of mollified degenerates barely lifted a finger to help our effort in Iraq. How impressive.

Because they were a "saner" society? Seriously now, do you really believe that? Do you think that the stalinistic Soviet society which contributed most - by far - to winning the war was a "saner" society, too?

My historical knowledge may be a bit hazy compared to your well established erudition, dear sir, but from what i remember the Soviets had no particular choice on the matter. It was either fight or succumb to German rule. Not so for the Americans, who could have simply brushed Pearl Harbor aside and decide to lay down, thus incurring minimal loss while the Europeans massacred each other, which is precisely what Hitler expected them to do. Unfortunately for him, that didn't really pan out, did it.

Could anybody in these "saner" societies speak their mind freely as we can today? Goebbels says: no. McCarthy says: no. Beria says: no.

Could anybody in our "liberated" societies even achieve 1/10th of what our forefathers did? Where are the great geniuses of today?  What major accomplishments have we made in this past several decades that will be remembered in generations to come? Is cultural decay really the price we have to pay for individual freedom, or is it the result of some insidious form of insanity which is turning our values inside out? 

The vast majority of the population today, no. Just like the vast majority of the population back then didn't bother to lift a finger against segregation. That wasn't an achievement of the majority of people or their "saner" society back then - it was an achievement of a minority against the vast majority of people and their hypocritic society back then.

That is what we should never forget.

All major historical events were the result of the actions of a small minority, you are not saying anything that is particularly insightful or damning. The allegation i made expanded beyond the "majority", in that i'm firmly convinced nobody today would have lifted a finger to fight segregation, and i mean, really fight it, not merely trying to "raise awareness" or whatever other ineffectual method our pathetic liberal elites like to come up with to make themselves feel good about themselves without suffering any inconvenience in the process, which is essentially what the civil rights movement has become. I'd wager blacks, particularly those living in the inner cities, have it worst today then they did during the days of Martin Luther King. Is anybody doing anything about it? Nope.

That is what we should never forget.

Why? What purpose does that serve? When was the last time a culture or a society found it necessary, nay, absolutely imperative to remember of the failings and the evils committed in the past, while relegating it's greatest accomplishments to the heap of forgotten history? It's sheer masochism, and for what purpose, the faint possibility that we may not repeat the same mistakes in the future? Is that really the ultimate destiny of a civilization, to perpetually brood and agonize over it's own sins from now until the end of time? Call me crazy, but i don't think such a culture has a future. 
 
Who says all the "hard work" has already been done?

The point i was trying to make is that it's easy to take the moral high ground concerning an issue that has been resolved a long time ago (segregation). The double standard we apply to ourselves and minorities from esoteric cultures, particular Islam is a perfect example of this. We like to decry many facets of Islamic culture, such as the issue of the burka which must be worn by all Muslim women, but we tolerate what in our own culture would be intolerable because we understand that most Muslims don't know any better. When we meet a Muslim in the streets we do not attack him for his believes, we just hope they'll come to their senses at one point. Likewise, when can't judge our past based on modern standards, because for the most part, we didn't know any better at the time. We do now of course, but that isn't reason enough to defame the memory of our forefathers, and it would very arrogant of us to do so in light of the advantage of our current understanding of things. Do you really think we are so much better then they were, and that raised under the same conditions we would behave any differently?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 09:03:38 PM by Josquin des Prez »

Offline Florestan

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2008, 12:37:18 AM »
Is cultural decay really the price we have to pay for individual freedom, or is it the result of some insidious form of insanity which is turning our values inside out? 

That's a very interesting question, although its terms need some qualifications.

It is an undisputed fact that today there are more libraries, more museums, more orchestras, more theaters and opera houses, more publishing houses, more universities, more schools and high-schools than there were in all pre-1900 centuries put together. The vast majority of the cultural heritage of humanity is easily available to anyone interested.

And this, I think, is precisely the real issue: who is interested? One would presume that, given the above picture, there should be consequently more people interested than were in the preceding centuries and, moreover, that every high-school or college graduate should have developped an interested in, and appreciation for, arts, sciences and philosophy. But reality teaches us otherwise: the percentage of people interested in studying and appreciating mankind's cultural achievements remains low; besides, one can meet no small number of graduates who don't have the slightest interest, let alone appreciation, for culture.

There is something of a paradox in this situation. The educational system of the older times, restrictive, not compulsory, not standardized and not easily available, produced an astonishing percentage of great artists, scientists and philosophers. Our contemporary system, universal, compulsory, standardized and accessible to all, produces an astonishing percentage of "illiterate graduates", whose reading abilities and interests don't extend beyond newspapers and glossy magazines and whose musical culture, for instance, is limited to Marylin Manson or Brittney Spears.

In connection to this, one can also mention an interesting fact: the intellectual and moral quality of the politicians declined sharply. The old educational system produced statesmen like, for instance, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Talleyrand, Metternich, Guizot, Disraeli, Gladstone, Bismarck, Count Cavour etc, most of whom were also men of arts and letters, who mastered two or more foreign languages, who could express themselves in a polished and cultured fashion and who possessed strong convictions which they were ready to defend "sword in hand". Comparing them with political products of the contemporary education, like Bush sr. & jr, the Clintons, Sarkozy, Schroeder, Blair, Berlusconi, Putin etc. is futile: the intellectual mediocrity of their discourse, the coarseness of their language, their hypocrisy and lack of authentic convictions is evident.

Bottom line, the old educational system produced, generally speaking, intellectual excellence, moral integrity and strong men. The contemporary educational system produces, generally speaking, intellectual mediocrity, moral dishonesty and weak men.

Why this is so I will not venture to theorize about. It is a dangerous trend and, unfortunately, in the present climate, there is no hope of halting it.
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karlhenning

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2008, 05:04:31 AM »
That's a very interesting question, although its terms need some qualifications.

It is an undisputed fact that today there are more libraries, more museums, more orchestras, more theaters and opera houses, more publishing houses, more universities, more schools and high-schools than there were in all pre-1900 centuries put together. The vast majority of the cultural heritage of humanity is easily available to anyone interested.

And this, I think, is precisely the real issue: who is interested? . . .

[snip]

Bottom line, the old educational system produced, generally speaking, intellectual excellence, moral integrity and strong men. The contemporary educational system produces, generally speaking, intellectual mediocrity, moral dishonesty and weak men.

Why this is so I will not venture to theorize about. It is a dangerous trend and, unfortunately, in the present climate, there is no hope of halting it . . .

[snip]

Most interesting musings throughout, Andrei.

A few points, too briefly, not only in response to your considered thoughts, but to the thread in general:

1.  Bemoaning the fact that the function of colleges/universities in our day differs to that function (and demographic percentage) in the allegedly 'saner age' strikes me as next-door to pointless;  society, culture and the function of the higher educational institutions have changed.  We cannot "go back" (and any sane person would admit that there are many respects in which we should not in the least wish to return to the allegedly 'saner age').

2.  On the whole, I should have thought it a good thing that more of the world's accumulated knowledge and culture are more widely available than ever before.

2a.  Consider the analogous benefit we all enjoy, fundamentally, on this forum:  we all have much more exposure to a great deal of the world's music from all eras and places . . . that's only going to seem a negative to someone who likes a few pieces, and has convinced himself that knowing any more music is a pointless dstraction  8)

3.  The who is interested? question is indeed at the heart of the matter.  I am disinclined to find a clean opposition of [where there's less available, more are interested to seek it out] and [where much is available, there is necessarily laziness].  Intellectual laziness needs to be overcome in either case;  there was always some element of (to allude to Pistol from Henry V) base, common & popular disdain for intellectual pursuits, and for the eggheads who were (some of) the pursuers.

4.  The problem is, indeed, creating an environment to foster self-motivated inquiry.  I don't think it a problem at all unique to our age.

Offline Florestan

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Re: 'An Appalling Report'
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2008, 05:44:20 AM »
Most interesting musings throughout, Andrei.

Thank you, Karl.

Bemoaning the fact that the function of colleges/universities in our day differs to that function (and demographic percentage) in the allegedly 'saner age' strikes me as next-door to pointless;  society, culture and the function of the higher educational institutions have changed. 

That's true. There is a question to be asked, though: have these changes been for better or for worse? I believe that in some respects they have been for better; in some other, for worse. To label our present social, economical and political system as "better" than any other in the past, without further qualifications, is just as pointless as declaring an older age as "saner" than ours, without further qualifications. 

We cannot "go back" (and any sane person would admit that there are many respects in which we should not in the least wish to return to the allegedly 'saner age').

"Going back" is of course impossible. It would be, moreover, pointless: going back to the past means that some time in the future we'll come again to the present situation.

On the whole, I should have thought it a good thing that more of the world's accumulated knowledge and culture are more widely available than ever before.

It is a very good thing.

Consider the analogous benefit we all enjoy, fundamentally, on this forum:  we all have much more exposure to a great deal of the world's music from all eras and places . . . that's only going to seem a negative to someone who likes a few pieces, and has convinced himself that knowing any more music is a pointless dstraction  8)

Agreed on all accounts.

The who is interested? question is indeed at the heart of the matter.  I am disinclined to find a clean opposition of [where there's less available, more are interested to seek it out] and [where much is available, there is necessarily laziness]. 

I don't believe that, either. Actually, my theory is that, broadly speaking, whoever is so inclined, will find the way towards knowledge or culture regardless of eras or societal arrangements, and formal education is not necessarily a prerequisite for that. There is a long list of great artists, philosophers and scientists who either had little formal education or were self-taught.

The problem is, indeed, creating an environment to foster self-motivated inquiry

Yes, precisely. But it seems that the prevailing educational theories are not conducive to that noble goal.
"I’ve always said music should make you laugh, make you cry or make you think." - Kenny Rogers