Sunday, September 07, 2008

Are We Really That Stupid?

Amazingly enough, the answer seems to be yes. We are a nation that elected George W. not just once, but twice. So we're not really starting high on the block to begin with. And according to 2006 National Geographic poll, there are a lot of us who think we're just fine in our ignorance.

More than 7 out of 10 Americans don't think it's important to know where countries in the news are located. Iraq? Afghanistan? Who cares where they are. This helps to explain why 4 out of 10 could find Iraq on a map - heck less than 1/2 could find India, and it's a lot bigger! And in each case full global maps weren't even used. Folks were quizzed with maps of the region. They only had to find Iraq or India on maps with only a few other countries! Less than 1/4 of those asked could find Israel on a map of the middle east.

Only 14-percent think that learning to speak another language is a good skill to have. Let's face it - if they can't speak English, do we really care what they have to say?

Ok, so what if we can't find other countries or speak other languages. We're Americans, damn it! We rule the world and the rest of them can just come to us. It's not like there's a whole international community out there in the social, economic, military or political universes. Nah! And let's face it - hypernationalism is a great cure for those times when someone sticks his or her neck out to look at how the US compares to the rest of the world, then ducks it back in because sure we know we're low on the totem pole these days in math, science, geography and knowing our own history (yes less than 1/2 of HS students know that the US is the only nation to use a nuclear weapon during war). But did you know some of our other proud stats?

The 2007 Global Gender Gap Report lists the US as 31st of 128 countries (behind such women's paradises as the Philippines and Croatia, Latvia and Lithuanian, Sri Lanka and Columbia). The top four being Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. And who did we beat out? Coming in at 32 is Kazakhstan. So much for the company we keep.

When the Reporters Without Borders first did their "freedom of the press" survey in 2002, the US was in 17th place. Last year? We ranked 53rd, snuggled between Tonga and Uruguay. High on the list were Finland and Iceland (apparently good spots for freedom of thought AND women), Ireland, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Estonia, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland and Hungary. Obviously it helps to have been under Soviet domination for a few decades to really make a people appreciate freedom of thought and the press.

And our health? Glad you asked. We're #1! Ok, well not in health care, but in health expenditures. The World Health Organization ranked us first in health expenditures per capita. But apparently we're only 37th out of 191 for "overall health system performance." But hey, that's almost twice as high as our ranking of 72 for "level of health."

I'd say I'm quitting while we're ahead, but apparently we haven't been there for a long, long, time. The sad thing is how appealing this status quo is to so many people. We laugh at the ignorance of today's students, or groan at our poor health care system. But how many of us are going to make the same mistake we made in 2000 and 2004? Electing a president, senators, representatives and others who think things are just fine as long as you can get the crowd to chant USA really loudly? How many of us are willing to get off our butts and support candidates who are actually serious about changing those numbers? And how many will just sit back and vote for the people who have long been part of the problem because they can say the word "change?"


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

This is part of the damaging legacy the American exceptionalism--read, "America is great, we're not subject to criticism because we're blessed by God and the rest of the world can take it where the sun don't shine"--that has been inflicted upon the national psyche unceasingly for the last 8 years. We can only hope that the forces of reason will prevail this time, if only because the difficuties this country faces are so tangible and can be solved ony through the application of reason. no faith-based policies or appeals to yahoo USA patriotism are going to bring jobs back, end the two(a third brewing)wars we're mired in, help pay the mortgage, guarantee a secure future for workers, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

I think the forces of reason will win out this time, but no one should take that for granted. i'm putting on my partisan hat for the first time in many years and digging in for some serious volunteer work.

1:50 PM  

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