Susan Jacoby says Americans are dumb. Oooooh, bold thesis!! Well but, remember that book Everything Bad Is Good For You about how videogames are actually good for kids' brains? Susan says that guy is full of shit. And it's a message that seems to be striking a chord. A New York Times story about her new book The Age Of American Unreason has been on the site's Most Emailed list for five days now. (Could it beat out What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage? Only time will tell!) I would have just ignored it but then for her column in yesterday's Washington Post, which now sits atop that site's "Most Viewed" list. How'd she decide to do the book? Well, the day was 9/11... Remember that? What year was it again? Anyway, depressed and confused, she found herself in 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."
She found that Americans were not only stupider than ever, but prouder of their stupidity. In this era of Traveler IQ challenge, only 24% of 18-24-year-old Americans can find Iran, Syria and Israel on a map, something she attributes to a fundamental arrogance that has seized the American public thanks to the rise of technology and religious fundamentalism. And although I personally blame late capitalism, what am I going to do, disagree with Susan? She's certainly totally correct, and the only thing more depressing than how far we've fallen since the era of the Fireside Chat is thinking about the number of people who think that by virtue of clicking on her column they are somehow exempt from the trend she describes.
We are all complete dumbasses incapable of even the most moderate level of knowledge retention, much less concentration. The computer on which you are reading this blog is rotting your brain. We have fooled ourselves into believing there is no piece of information worth knowing that can't be distilled into a pithy blog entry, because no piece of information longer than a pithy blog entry seems capable of finding a viable market of readers these days, and the market always knows best; this country certainly did not come into the position of consuming 25% of the world's resources on 5% of its population by ignoring that.
But hey! We can still make this a post that mainly hates on men: do you think dude culture is more hostile to knowledge, or lady culture? Dudes definitely have the "arrogant" market cornered. But our magazines are so much dumber.
Dumb And Dumber: Are Americans Hostile To Knowledge? [NY Times]
The Dumbing Of America [Washington Post]