Commentary

Nitwit Nation

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I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I think America is getting dumber. I don’t mean just a little bit, either. Do you know 29 percent of Americans don’t even know who our vice president is?

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be rather embarrassing. In fact, I’ve decided that if things don’t drastically improve, whenever I travel abroad I’m going to affect a Scottish accent so people won’t know I’m an American.

I’ve been sitting here trying to discover exactly when we started our downhill slide into idiocy. It may have started around the same time we elected George W. Bush. Twice. That was also around the same time Americans were becoming completely enamored with reality television. We started with “Cops” and MTV’s “The Real World” in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but it was in the Age of the Bush the reality show scene exploded with “Survivor” and “American Idol.”

Now we have Snooki making headlines. How is it Snooki is making more headlines than our scientists? When did we decide we’d rather idolize drunken, orange people lacking personalities than scientists or inventors?

But alongside the burgeoning popularity of reality shows of that time was the burgeoning popularity of the Internet. Some people argue that the World Wide Web is making us dumber because we don’t have to learn anything, we can just look it up. I argue that we have this vast bank of knowledge before us and we should be soaking up every piece of knowledge we can. It’s like someone opened up the world’s largest research center right in our own house, and finding what we need is usually as easy as typing in a question and then hitting the enter key. Why is it that instead of spending our time learning about history, geography, literature and science, we’re spending it on Facebook learning about what someone we haven’t seen in 25 years had for dinner last night?

I think the one thing that added most to the general intellectual demise of the American public in the ’90s and 2000s was the beginning of Fox News. I’m not sure if people are addlebrained for watching it or if they’re addlebrained from watching it. Either way, if someone honestly believes Fox News is fair and balanced, they’re probably not very balanced themselves.

What’s really disconcerting is there seems to be an alarming number of Americans who don’t care and may even be proud they’re uneducated. Remember back when Rick Santorum claimed President Obama was a snob because he wanted everyone to have an equal chance at college? Remember when people applauded after Santorum said it? Have we really become a nation that equates being educated with being stuck up?

So, why is it any of my business there are Americans who want to be stupid? Why can’t I leave the half-wits alone and let them be half-wits? Because, I believe the stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a nation. Part of this strength comes from educating people at least to the point of knowing Joe Biden is our vice president, not that one dude who used to play for the Jets.

I’m not sure exactly how we solve our idiocy problem. Obviously we have to make learning fun again and make being a scientist more appealing to our children than being an orange reality show star. I figure if it took us 20 or more years to get into this mess, it’s going to take at least that long to get us out of it. However, I’m convinced we can do it.

But, please don’t hold it against me if I start working on my Scottish accent — just in case.

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