mah fellow amuricans: dumb and dumberer

“I’m a sucker for all of those man-on-the-street interviews that late-night shows do to reveal just how dumb Americans are. It’s fun to laugh at the people who struggle with simple math problems or are unable to find any country we’re at war with on a map. More than a few even get tripped up trying to name the branches of government.

If you think government dysfunction is the country’s #1 problem—and according to a recent Gallup poll, a third of the nation does—then maybe we should take those hilarious late-night interviews a little more seriously.

You see, while we were busy waving our angry finger at Washington, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its findings from the Survey of Adult Skills. The group’s research measured the literacy, math and computer skills of 5,000 adults from 16 to 65 and compared those numbers with that of 21 other countries.

The good news is that we didn’t finish last in anything.”

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The above statements were lifted from an article titled “America’s problem: We’re too dumb” by LZ Granderson, for the CNN Opinion website (October 14, 2013). Mr. Granderson notes that US adults ranked 16th out of 21 countries in literacy proficiency. (Actually, that’s higher than I would have guessed!)

Weapons of mass destruction were too found in Iraq!

If memory serves, during the 2004 presidential election, some organization gave voters a mini-test as an exit poll. There were four true-or-false statements, each concerning the most pressing topics of the day: Iraq, Saddam, weapons of mass destruction. The answers were obvious (“Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq,” “Saddam was responsible for 9/11,” etc.). All four were false statements.

At the bottom of the test was a list of media news sources, from the supposedly “liberal” (hah!) New York Times to the decidedly rightwing FoxNews. Participants were asked to circle their primary source of news from among them. Those who circled the NYT and related media usually got all four correct. Many who selected FoxNews actually got all four incorrect!

Rhetorical Question Time: Should those people who got all four statements incorrect be entrusted with a ballot?

Should voters have a clue as to what they are voting for?

I have long advocated for an “intelligence test” for voters to take prior to being allowed to cast a ballot. A simple true-or-false with a mere ten (10) statements regarding the current events that are shaping the election. Five each from the Republicans and Democrats (and it is hopeless suggesting any from “third party” sources).

All must be factual—opinions not allowed. All must be verified by an disinterested third party. A registered voter must get at least six (6) correct to cast a ballot.

Of course, this will never happen for two reasons: first, any such test, no matter how fair and balanced, would be hideously tainted with the stench of the so-called “literacy tests” devised by certain states in this union to keep blacks disenfranchised for several generations into the mid-1960s.

And second, with such a test the Republicans would probably never win a national or state election again . . .

Education didn’t crack the top five of this country’s problems

Mr. Granderson sums up the survey this way: “When Gallup asked Americans what was the country’s top problem, after dysfunctional government, the top-listed items were the economy, unemployment, the deficit, and health care. Sadly education didn’t crack the top five, despite being the one area that really links them all.”

With the Republicans essentially in control of the federal government’s purse via their hamstringing of the Congress, do NOT expect any of the above to get anything but worse in the upcoming years.

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Postscript the first: the first three words of the title of this piece was my attempt at recalling the ghost of Lyndon Baines Johnson (hence the attempt to capture his downhome Texas accent). Had LBJ kept his nose to the domestic grindstone and left that ittybitty, insignificant, no-threat-to-us country of Vietnam to wrk out its problems by itself (as, ideally, all countries should), then he might be considered the Best President of the United States in the 20th century for the successes of the Great Society! Alas, such was not the case . . .

It was also the title of one of Ron Cobb‘s collections of his bloody brilliant political/social cartoons of The Sixties. And, instead of mere numerals, I use the term “The Sixties” with caps to signify an era of which Mr. Cobb was a pivotal player in the underground newspaper movement/phenomenon, although—alas and alack—he receives little attention these days from those revising the past.

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Postscript the second: the second three words in the title is, of course, a reference to the almost unwatchable Dumb And Dumber, the 1994 movie with Jim Carrey doing his wretched Jerry Lewis impression. (I know, that’s redundant: there is no other kind of Jerry Lewis impression.) The presence of the usually excellent Jeff Daniels does not help the film in any appreciable manner.

Mr. Daniels remains relatively under-appreciated: please see Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose Of Cairo—he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for each. Hopefully his stint with the television series The Newsroom will change that for the better.

Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!