Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Calboner, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. Calboner

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    Excerpts from an article at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/books/14dumb.html

    February 14, 2008
    Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?
    By PATRICIA COHEN

    A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from “American Idol,” appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?”

    Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”

    Such, uh, lack of global awareness is the kind of thing that drives Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” up a wall. Ms. Jacoby is one of a number of writers with new books that bemoan the state of American culture. [. . .]

    But now, Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such thing as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

    Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.

    She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.

    Ms. Jacoby, dressed in a bright red turtleneck with lipstick to match, was sitting, appropriately, in that temple of knowledge, the New York Public Library’s majestic Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue. The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

    Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

    “This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

    The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

    “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

    At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”
     
  2. Principessa

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    Damn you Calboner! :mad: I saw the same article; but you beat me to posting it. :tongue::cool:
     
  3. Bbucko

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    In answer to the thread title: yes. But it's nothing new.

    I was forbidden by my parents to read during Summer vacation 1971, when I was eleven. They thought my studious curiosity was a sign of deficient masculinity.
     
  4. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Christ people are stupid.

    We're a bunch of poi dogs sniffing around Pearl Harbor wondering what that buzz overhead is all about.
     
  5. B_sugarandspice

    B_sugarandspice New Member

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    yeah, I see there pics here! lol
     
  6. SpeedoGuy

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    I hate to say it but I think its true. And getting worse. And there's a reason.
     
  7. B_sugarandspice

    B_sugarandspice New Member

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    ^ not really, Happy valentine's Day!
     
  8. D_Roland_D_Hay

    D_Roland_D_Hay Account Disabled

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    Living in one of the worst states in terms of education, I certainly see more and more of this happening. Geography, history, spelling, grammar...it's not very pretty is it?
     
  9. Principessa

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    I beg to differ. I watch tons of tv and while not as knowledgeable as you or some others here on politics, foreign policy, or other topics I did manage to tear myself away from the boob tube long enough to earn 3 degrees. :cool:

    As someone who has worked in the field of education for over a decade the biggest threat to public education in this country is No Child Left Behind.
     
  10. What to do?

    What to do? New Member

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    No Child Left Behind is, indeed, killing the education system!

    When I took History of Psychology the textbook noted that public education was introduced as a form of controlling the thoughts of society at an early age, thus continuing the thoughts throughout life. If you pay attention to the public education system, the same methods are used and all children are taught to be the same and they highly discourage independent thinking. This is to eliminate the people from questioning authority regardless of stupid decisions and policies. This article doesn't even surprise me. Americans are taught to live in the here and now. There is too little impact on global studies.
     
  11. Calboner

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    I waited all day for you!

    Some "Christ people" might take offense at that remark.
     
  12. B_cigarbabe

    B_cigarbabe New Member

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Perfect example of a child left way,way,way,behind!
    Dumb da da dumb dumb!!
    cigarbabe:saevil:
     
  13. B_cigarbabe

    B_cigarbabe New Member

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    S&S!!

    See above post!

    cigarbabe:saevil:
     
  14. Bbucko

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    I saw this, mused on it, and let it pass. The irony is WAAAAAY too obvious, CB :tongue:
     
  15. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    I don't see what the article has to do with the subject heading. I thought this was going to be something interesting about the disturbing trend toward anti-intellectualism in the USA. Instead, it's just another golly-jee-Americans-are-stupid thread.

    Anyway

    Yes, many Americans are reprehensibly ignorant about a great many things, including history and, especially, world geography.

    But so are many other people. Americans have contributed a great many things to the world but ignorance and stupidity are not cultural innovations we can take credit for.

    Ask a large group of young people in Japan what significant event took place in August of 1945, and many of them will have no idea.

    Ask someone in Hungary to find Illinois on a map, and not many of them will be able to do it.

    Friend request me on facebook and challenge me to a world geography IQ challenge and I'll beat you.

    Or make a blanket unqualified statement that is clearly false and yet jives with certain common prejudices, like, "Americans are dumb," and sit back and watch all the fools who agree.
     
  16. D_Fiona_Farvel

    D_Fiona_Farvel Account Disabled

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    Yes.
    Always have been, even with leaders. Go back to the 2000 and 2004 presidential debates and read reactions, many positive, to Bush's populist angles, over his opponents intellectualism. You'll find that intellect is not highly valued by many in the U.S.

    An older book from the 70s titled Anti-Intellectualism in America by Hostadter discusses this issue in depth.
     
  17. Drifterwood

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    The prejudice works both ways though.

    And which Americans are you referring to anyway? :rolleyes:
     
  18. vince

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    Nothing new in Americans being unaware of the world around them. In the eighties I met a couple who had run to Toronto from the draft in the sixties. They told a story of how they had come from Ann Arbor Michigan in the summer with parkas, because they thought once they got in to Canada in the summer it would be very cold! Ann Arbor is NORTH of Toronto!

    I watched the annual Dimblebey Lecture on BBC last month. This year it was given by Dr. J Craig Ventner. He titled it "Our DNA Driven World". He talked about a lot of interesting things- genetics, climate change, health care, artificial life forms and education. It is definitely worth reading. Here is a quote from the lecture-

    "To begin the process of change we need to start with our children by teaching them in place of memorization, to explore, challenge, and problem solve in an attempt to understand the world around them, and most especially the world they cannot "see" or feel directly. Perhaps, we can also start by changing the way we teach science in our schools.

    Many studies continue to relay sobering facts about the state of our science and math education in both the United States and the United Kingdom. A recent study compared math and science scores of 12 to 13-year-olds from each US state to their counterparts in both the developed and developing world. While it conveyed some good information, namely that the US and UK are doing better than in previous years, it still showed that compared to countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and China even the best US states and England still lag behind. The good news for England however, is that you've outperformed the US in science scores. This might be due in part to the fact that half of all US citizens believe that humans coexisted with dinosaurs, or the 25&#37; who don't know the Earth revolves around the sun, and the 58% who cannot calculate a 10% tip on a restaurant bill."

    BBC - Press Office - Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2007: Dr J Craig Venter
     
  19. D_Fiona_Farvel

    D_Fiona_Farvel Account Disabled

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    That is not ignorance, most were never taught this as Japan has a tradition of revisionism or omitting information from history. As do most nations.

    Ask a large group of young people in the U.S. about Juneteenth or to name a significant point of JFK's presidency, to list the bill of rights, name the fifty states, or ask anything about the cold war and most won't know. I think the question becomes, which of these pinpoints pure ignorance and which are just not taught. I'll let juneteenth, jfk, and the cold war slide, but if you do not know the bill of rights or cannot name the states of the union, imo, you're ignorant.
     
  20. Bbucko

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    I'll cop to not having been aware of what Juneteenth was before I Googled it.

    My bad...
     
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