A frequent visitor to my shul in Allentown was wont to label ArtScroll "Anti-Semitic". His claim was straightforward: Siddurim and Chumashim offering copious instructions, simplified translations and Reader’s Digest commentary result in a dumbing-down of the Jewish community.
His comments remind me of my first experience leading a Rosh HaShanah minyan. I was guest-rabbi for an auxiliary minyan in a flagship Centrist Orthodox synagogue, and I was told that my job included announcing page numbers throughout the long chazarat hashatz (repetition of the amidah).
I asked my rebbe whether announcing pages might constitute an interruption in the davening, and he replied that it probably would constitute such an interruption; he felt that most people don’t really need the page number announcements.
Over the years since, though, I've learned that many people like those at that minyan, even with yeshiva education, really have needed page number announcements for parts of Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, and even for parts of the Shabbos davening.
And so I would myself over the years: Should I force them to figure out the page numbers themselves? Am I contributing to the collective dumbing-down by announcing pages for them?
As on so many issues, I think the answer is both Black and White.
It's Black: Some Jews need the page numbers, and won't follow the davening without them. For many under-educated Jews, the alternative to these boosts is to do nothing at all. If they were unable to follow, they would tune out. To take the “shul as a business” analogy I find useful on occasion: The demand for our product is not so great that we can afford to place hurdles before the consumer.
And it's White: For other Jews, this is a dumbing-down that keeps them from learning for themselves. The result of this calculation is that the least common denominator group gets its accessible davening, but the rest, who don’t really need that assistance, are not challenged to exceed themselves. This is not a good thing.
Still, I would suggest that there are other ways to challenge this group of Jews who do not need page numbers announced, who do not need simple translations, etc:
We can encourage them to work on their chesed and their understanding of כל ישראל ערבין זה בזה (the responsibility we have for each other) by finding ways to help their under-educated neighbors.
We can offer them advanced shiurim, dvar torah sheets, etc.
We can challenge them to set up chavrusas, with whom they will learn more than they could ever learn from a shiur (yes, even one of my vaunted shiurim).
I think the page numbers, translations and abridged commentaries must remain. To borrow from Vayyikra 25:25 - “If your brother should become impoverished and sell his inheritance, then his close relative shall come and redeem his brother’s sale.” Our brethren, by unavoidable circumstance or by sale or by incompetence, have lost their inheritance. It is our responsibility to redeem it and return it to them.