We're all a bunch of ignorami.
July 17, 2000 3:13 PM   Subscribe

We're all a bunch of ignorami. Hooray! Hurrah! It's bliss!
posted by Mr. skullhead (13 comments total)
As usual the statistics are horridly biased. Who is to say what is more important for Americans to know? As an American who used to read newspapers and the like and actually thought he cared, such things as being able to describe a molecule or understand the difference between a federal budget deficit and a surplus (batteries in the calculator). Such things are unimportant to the average American not because they are ignorant but because they are apathetic. They have no REASON to care about such things.

Now, ask them about television or music or fashion or sports, they'll respond with reams of information. Whether or not John Travolta crash and burns with his latest movie is of more interest than whether or not Bush will become the next president.

Why? Because there's a question as to whether or not John Travolta can survive his latest tragedy. It's more suspenseful. We ALL know that Bush is riding in on a money ticket. Daddy already paid for his son to be in office. All the rest of this is just formality. So no one cares.

It's why less than 20% of the American people ever vote. Because it doesn't MATTER. It's why over 80% go see the movies; because fictitous tales presented before us on a flickering white screen holds more value and worth than the bullcrap on the ten oclock news.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:25 PM on July 17, 2000

I'm just amused to find out that my grammatical construction is more sophisticated than the author of the article was capable of managing. Ah, to be brilliant and know it. :)
posted by Ezrael at 4:00 PM on July 17, 2000

No, is more like the "my grammatical construction is more sophisticated than the author of the article was permitted." Is this not true? Eh?
posted by EngineBeak at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2000

It is true. Local newspapers are written at a 6th grade level, while magazines like TIME and People are only a few steps up at an 8th grade level.
posted by Satapher at 5:19 PM on July 17, 2000

Well, that's unfortunate for them, then. (Sorry, but I'm not interested in being lectured on how ignorant I am by someone who allows him or herself to be shackled by the lowest point in the morphogenic tide.) I've always wondered who decides what those levels are, on a related note. I was reading the Aeneid and Beowulf by then, thanks to that being all my gramma had for me to read. I think we need to revise what we expect of our offspring.
posted by Ezrael at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2000

I shore feel good about knowing all those things that the other folks don't know. Indeed, Mama learned me good.

I am so so smart!!! S - M - R - T

In all seriousness, I think part of the problem lies in nature of the 'popular' culture that kids are consuming nowadays. We oughtta take away that MTV they like so much, and make them watch every single episode of Marty Stouffer's Wild America.

I miss ol' Marty. He taught me how to be sensitive. Remember Griz, his bear? Oh gosh, now I'm gettin' a little sentimental.

posted by aladfar at 6:55 PM on July 17, 2000

There's an interesting dichotomy in both British and American culture, I think, whereby athletic (and aesthetic) excellence is lionised, while intellectual excellence is considered slightly suspect. In fact, it extends so far as to turn athletes and actors into de facto cultural commentators, or even Chief Executives.

(That's certainly less the case in continental Europe...)
posted by holgate at 6:56 PM on July 17, 2000

"While more than 70% of the people the NSF surveyed knew that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around [...]"

Gosh, as much as that? More than 70%? Humanity has known this for 390 years, and the fact that around 30% of the population of the most advanced nation on the planet hasn't got the memo yet doesn't seem to bother our Mr. Chapman?

Also, I'm highly entertained by the measure of what's considered an "attentive public." I don't read a newspaper every day, either. Gee, I must be an apathetic idiot. On the other hand, maybe I don't think the newspaper industry, with its endless fascinations with such important issues as Lewinsky's stained dress, to be particularly relevant anymore.
posted by webmutant at 7:36 PM on July 17, 2000

If he thinks most people are genuinely stupid, he himself is an idiot.The sheep are out grazing,the wolves are waiting for sundown, and this guy(Chapman is it) is wringing his hands and repeating a tired ,tired old Mantra...if he is an example of the intellectual "elite" ...then let me offa this bus .Or maybe the folks over at Everything2 should tag his ass.
posted by wetus at 7:19 AM on July 18, 2000

Excuse me, "the most advanced nation on the planet"? In what way, exactly, do you think the US is more advanced than others? Get real.
posted by ar0n at 8:22 AM on July 18, 2000

Really. We have one of the worst education systems of all developed nations. Kids in France and Japan come over here and either laugh at what we're learning in High School or get really angry over how little work our students have to d
posted by deckard at 9:08 AM on July 18, 2000

No, we have one of the best education systems in the world... for what it wants to do. Which is, keep administrators employed, and constantly increase their budgets to no effect. Teaching, as a value or goal in the schools, is far down the list from the top.

Here's the real core of the piece:

... as political philosopher Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University has pointed out, young people tend to learn what society teaches them to value.

The simple truth is that deep study of science, math, history, literature, art or familiarity with current events cannot compete with celebrity gossip and scandals, large calamities, TV and video games, voyeurism, consumerism, instant fortunes, advertising and popular but ephemeral fascinations.

Which is obviously wrong. Liberal studies can compete with such ephemera... They're just rarely permitted to. They're completely off the agenda. They're not what we value for the overall public. Rather, we have a mandarinate, intentional or not. {shrug}

posted by aurelian at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2000

Why does knowing what a molecule is matter? It matters what a molecule because it's a basic part of science. It's so fricken' basic that we teach it in middle school at the latest, elementary school sometimes. It's shocking that only 70% of the people surveyed know the earth goes around the sun because it's a basic fact of life.

Sure, it's not instrinsically importent, but it's the foundation of a greater understanding of science, which is not some mystical construct but a description of the world around us.

A person who doesn't know the earth goes around the sun also won't realize that homeopathy is utterly absurd, and that ignorance can kill them if they choose it over other treatments that work (or at least work sometimes, which is more then homeopathy can say). For that matter, a person who doesn't know what a molecule is won't be making a cure for cancer; in fact they may well be creating or propogating homeopathy!

This is only one of literally thousands of similar things I could say about this that affect you every day. Pick your religion to rant against. Pick your therapy from Quackwatch. Think of every product you've ever used engineered using faulty or even stupid assumptions, like "it doesn't really matter what kind of steel you use". Think of stupid government initiatives that 'prevent pollution' before establishing whether a 'pollutant' is even good or bad, or change car requirements to 'save lives' before testing to see if it even works... or of your relative that buys shoe insoles with magnets incapable of even penetrating the shoe-sole material with a magnetic field, let alone affect your body, because the package says that magnets balance your body's energy field or some such nonsense.

Do you think that maybe some of those things involved people who don't even know what a molecule is? Doesn't colossal ignorance directly affect your life every day?

An entire nation of people who don't know what the internet is can't be expected to make good decisions regarding it... hey, haven't some of you ranting against this article posted upset comments about recent rulings of law about the internet? What do you expect? Ignorance in a democracy means bad government.

That the article attracts so much of a "so what? don't be so elitist" (Elitist to expect people to know that the earth goes around the sun? How so?) attitude from the very group that is supposed to be the most informed on the planet (internet users with it enough to find something like Metafilter, which is not run by AOL) is even scarier then the article itself. How do you combat apathy about apathy?

The real reason to care about knowlege is this: Ignorance has always been a capital crime, with the universe as judge, jury, and executioner. No appeals.
posted by Jeremy Bowers at 10:34 AM on July 18, 2000

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