Monday, 18 June 2018


I recently noted with grim satisfaction that more new generations had lower IQs than mine had. Scientists at the Raglar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Norway analysed the IQs of 730,000 men in national service during 1970 and 2009 and found a drop equivalent of seven points per generation. And now exactly the same trend has been seen in the UK. This is the first time the previously steady increase in IQs had been reversed.

I came from an educational age where, for instance, collectives were de rigeur. An exultation of skylarks, an unkindness of ravens and (I loved this one) a tantrum of decorators. We were taught to remember things. General knowledge and breadth of learning mattered. In the current tyranny of an exams culture -  Sats, GCSE, A levels – pupils focus on a narrow syllabus that most of us don’t understand. Despite a degree in English Language and Literature I understand Scholastic Aptitude Tests for maths better than for literacy which labels parts of speech in alien terminology.

But, anyway, I distrust the whole idea of IQs which the Frenchman Alfred Binet invented not to test  for super intelligence but the exact opposite, to assess the needs of the educationally challenged.

I agree instead with Sir Kenneth Robison who suggested schools today were killing creativity. If you haven’t already seen it watch his epic TED talk. With more opportunities to learn and understand we seem to have dumbed down and narrowed. What should have borne bumper fruit seems instead to have achieved the reverse.

There are more opportunities for everything…but the measurements have simplified and brutalised. Passing exams and earning loads of dosh. Life is not more fun. It’s just busier. So can we change this busier, less intelligent, gloomier world?

We must and can by listening more, living in the present and enjoying life for what it is. Bloody marvellous. However when you wonder if I’m indeed going mad with optimism on the basis of Einstein’s definition of insanity well think again.

Because yet again we are going to Venice to potter, see new things, eat pasta, drink Campari, prosecco and read a book a day. And yes I do expect a different result. I do expect new stimulation. I do expect to learn because this kaleidoscopic city is not as some have called it a watery theme park. It’s an energetic place with a vibrant history of success. It keeps on being on its knees as when Napoleon swept in to ravage, plunder and humiliate in 1797; in 1967 when the Venice in Peril fund started because Venice was thought to be sinking fast and in 2016 when the oppression of the burgeoning flood of tourists and skyscraper cruise ships at last became seen as the threat that it is.

Venice is a living place that still thrills. And the world is not getting more stupid.  We’ve just  forgotten what matters that’s all. Just stare at the Grand Canal and all will be well. Trust me.

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