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Dummies, Idiots, and Other Aliens

by on July 8, 2023

It appears our culture has been taken over by aliens called Idiots, Dummies, and Chicken Soup Souls. Or perhaps the aliens have convinced us that we really are dummies and idiots, and need to eat chicken soup to change all that. I’ve begun to take offense at theses book collections, since so many people seem absolutely convinced they are intellectually-deficient and need these books. Just knowing they exist seems to motivate a few people into entering a bookstore, rather than a library.

There is so much shelf space devoted to these books that they will probably hold a place in the Guinness book of records as the “longest running and largest book series.” The Dummies series subtitled, “A Reference for the Rest of Us” and “Learning made easy” has more than 638 editions at last count, 339 titles, with lots of computer books (some in third, fourth, and fifth editions.) Now they even have a book on ChatGPT for Dummies. They are currently being published by John Wiley and Sons. The Complete Idiots Guide to [subject] are being published now by DK Publishing, with around 734 editions.

CliffNotes, for persons needing quick learning, study guides, test preparation, or literary notes of the stories assigned, started in the 1950s, and now owned and published by Course Hero publishers, is another well-known series. This series of study guides has been imitated by many including those I mentioned above. There is EZ-101 and EZ-202 series by Barron’s, B.E.S. Publishing, established in 1939, and is now owned by SourceBook LLC, publishers.

I’ll have to admit that computers and software updates, come so fast now, lots of new editions of instructional guides are required. Yet there seems always a need to know which version of the software you are using in order to pick the right edition, otherwise there could be a glitch which can’t be fixed using the wrong edition of the book. Alas, I’m not sure the latter will work either. I’m still working with a Windows 10 computer, because it won’t run Windows 11, and we are already hearing about a new operating system for 2024; Windows 12; code named Hudson Valley.

There is the ‘Complete Idiot’s’ guide to the perfect wedding, dating, surviving divorce, understanding football, the perfect interview, first aid, and many more. There are books on law, photography, parenting, and some oxymoron titles like Success for Dummies, Consulting for Dummies, and College Financial Aid for Dummies. We are all certainly having fun with the titles anyway.

Based on education and motivation research is, most people who are interested in these books are already involved or motivated to learn more of whatever it is they are engaged in and are looking for help from a book. The motivation may stem from a new class they are taking in high school or college or trying to help someone else, or just getting up to speed for a test or a new job. What amazes me is that so many people gravitate to the ‘Dummies’ and ‘Idiots’ books immediately and may bypass excellent training tools that are available. Although many of the ‘Dummies’ style books are indeed written by some of the best writers in the fields in which they write.

I think we should have more books similar to the Princeton Review series, “SMART.”  Their books, Math Smart, Word Smart, Study Smart, and Word Power at least give us the positive note that what we are reading is not “dumbed” down for us, even if we don’t feel too smart.

Much research has been done over the past 20 years regarding learning. Books written in the 1980s are just now being discovered and suggestions in them are being implemented. Titles like Superlearning 2000, Accelerated Learning, NLP and Reading by the Colors. These are telling us that all of us have a great capacity to learn quickly, we’ve just been doing it the wrong way. The compelling motivation people are showing for reading the ‘Dummies’ and ‘Idiots’ books should clue us into additional insights towards motivating poor readers. There has been much research on brain functioning and we know much more now than in the 80s. But getting teachers and parents to use methods to help children, known to be helpful, like visualization exercises, testing vision and hearing, has been an uphill battle. Those of us who can mentor and tutor, need to also become aware of newer methods of visualization and use of color overlays for better vision and reading that can change the way we see, study, and learn. If a reader can’t see very well what he/she is reading, then even reading the ‘Dummies’ and ‘Idiot’ books won’t help much.