Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dumb & Dumber

Okay, so I’m like the 5 millionth person to watch this video, but it still never ceases to amaze. I was reminded of it by an article in the NY Times today that asks the evergreen question: “Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?”

To quote: T. J. Jackson Lears, a cultural historian who edits the quarterly review Raritan, said, “The tendency to this sort of lamentation is perennial in American history,” adding that in periods “when political problems seem intractable or somehow frozen, there is a turn toward cultural issues.”

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 things 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.

BONUS: Be sure to check out this video, America the Stupid that’s jam-packed with horrifying statistics about the depth and breadth of American ignorance. By the way, I don’t think for a moment that Canadians would rate all that much differently...

UPDATE: Bill Moyers talks with Susan Jacoby about her new book, "The Age of American Unreason." Watch the video at PBS.