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. Thats a country? Ive heard of Turkey. But Hungry? Ive 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 dont think it matters. She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds dont 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 Librarys 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 days 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.