I feel like I write this post every couple of years. The reason I feel like that is because I'm certain I do. What happens is that someone puts out an article, essentially questioning the intelligence of the average American. It will cite examples of one in 5 people can't identify Abraham Lincoln or think that Judge Joe Brown serves on the Supreme Court or something.
This time it was Newsweek. They interviewed 1000 members of the U.S. citizenry and found that:
- 29 % couldn’t name the vice president.
- 73 % couldn’t identify a reason why we fought the Cold War.
- 44%were unable to define the Bill of Rights.
- 6% Don't know the date of Independence Day.
and I (with I presume everyone else) then get a little depressed and blame the educational system or MTV or something.The article cites a study which found that since before World War II our civic knowledge decreases annually at an average of just under 1%, which I found pretty appalling. Not the number, really, but the overall trend.
I figure those numbers were never all that great to start with. I mean, by the end of the 18th century, I'm sure there was a sizable faction of the populace who couldn't be bothered to give a shit about that sort of thing. "We paid your damn taxes, now leave me alone and get off my lawn." We as a nation were hurdling ourselves into more useful pursuits. Industry. Agriculture. Wood lathing. Legislatin'. drinking.
But now is not the now of twenty years ago. We have information. VAST amounts of information constantly at our fingertips, now. I can learn more in 78 hours in front of a computer nowadays than the entirety of what I took away from college. So how could our civic knowledge not be improving? Maybe we're replacing the pursuits we turned to so long ago with celebrity news and fluff.
and don't get me wrong, because I'm as guilty as anyone of this. I know an alarming amount of information about the casts of the Twilight movies and Glee, which is insane because I haven't seen ten seconds of either.
Anyway, reading these studies always get me wondering how I would do, especially since I seem to be so upset by people not knowing them. So I went and took a few online practice tests. I scored a 92, 96, and a 94%. For some reason, I really raw a blank on Woodrow Wilson.
So then, because I'm an idiot, I decided to take the Canadian citizenship test and got something like 8 40% scores in a row. I think something might've sunk in, though because I just took one and got an 80%. Nice!
But at the end of the day, who cares? Is being able to name the Vice President going to make you a better person, or feed your kids at night? of course not. This is *luxury* knowledge that we don't need to survive or make a living, but it's damned advisable to have.
What pisses me off though is that there are so many people (on every side of the political spectrum) who are wailing that it is time to take the country "back", or claiming to be "true Americans", or so their t-shirts tell me. But when our civic knowledge is that much in the shitter, isn't it fair to assume that a lot of these people might not be able to pass a citizenship exam for the nation they claim to represent? If people have to learn this shit on top of our crazy-ass language, culture, and food serving sizes then I think it's only fair that we all do to.
So I guess the moral of this story is don't call anyone else out on their shit if you don't know it yourself.
I'm not all that smart. I mean, I do okay, but I'm not smart smart. I live with a smart person and I know that there's stuff in her brain I won't ever comprehend. and I'm okay with that. Tom Scharpling says he isn't smart, but he's "crafty; like Bugs Bunny". I'm not even that. But I'm curious as all hell and I will look up pretty much any question that pops into my brain. I guess it's kind of fortunate that I want to do that for a living...
update: In a spur of the moment Supreme Court Justice test, I just completely blanked on Elena Kagen