Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
It’s here. Pull up a chair and read with me, will you…let’s see if we can find what people are missing.
They’re the sort of scores that drive high-school history teachers to drink. When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.
Yikes! That’s pretty bad. Better keep reading…even though some of these words are a tad bit big, and stuff.
Don’t get us wrong: civic ignorance is nothing new. For as long as they’ve existed, Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators. And they’ve been lamenting the philistinism of their peers ever since pollsters started publishing these dispiriting surveys back in Harry Truman’s day. (He was a president, by the way.) According to a study by Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, the yearly shifts in civic knowledge since World War II have averaged out to “slightly under 1 percent.”
Thus ends paragraph two. Paragraphs three and four follow…
But the world has changed. And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings—like us.
To appreciate the risks involved, it’s important to understand where American ignorance comes from. In March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland, and the U.S. to answer questions on international affairs. The Europeans clobbered us. Sixty-eight percent of Danes, 75 percent of Brits, and 76 percent of Finns could, for example, identify the Taliban, but only 58 percent of Americans managed to do the same—even though we’ve led the charge in Afghanistan. It was only the latest in a series of polls that have shown us lagging behind our First World peers.
Paragraph five has some of them underline things in them called “links.” You know how they works. You clicks on ‘em and they take you places, which makes it tougher to concentrate on the big words.
Most experts agree that the relative complexity of the U.S. political system makes it hard for Americans to keep up. In many European countries, parliaments have proportional representation, and the majority party rules without having to “share power with a lot of subnational governments,” notes Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, coauthor of Winner-Take-All Politics. In contrast, we’re saddled with a nonproportional Senate; a tangle of state, local, and federal bureaucracies; and near-constant elections for every imaginable office (judge, sheriff, school-board member, and so on). “Nobody is competent to understand it all, which you realize every time you vote,” says Michael Schudson, author of The Good Citizen. “You know you’re going to come up short, and that discourages you from learning more.”
Hmmm…yes, here at the end of paragraph five, I think we’ve got a good point. I live in California, which does something a little bit strange that might come as news to you. Anytime our state legislators sit down to decide an issue that seems to be slightly contentious — and that’s an expansive reading there, you’d be surprised how many things fall into this category — it ends up on the ballot as a referendum. They’re usually called “propositions” and in a typical election year we’ll see between ten and twenty of the goddamn things, sometimes more than that, about such things as issuing water bonds or imposing new requirements that a given revenue stream can only be spent on certain things. From the home and office note-comparing sessions during the first couple of days of November in even numbered years, it has become clear to me that even our best-informed voters have entirely given up on trying to follow this. It has dissolved into a puddle of crapshoot lunacy, a very long time long ago.
I see California as a rather extreme example of what this Schudson guy is talking about. Staying involved and fleshing out the details is a rather simple order if there aren’t too many details, especially when everybody’s talking about them all the time. Once you have to do some research, into things nobody’s talking about anywhere, the interest tapers off. Doesn’t matter if it’s going to be on the ballot or not.
Now paragraph six. This is the mind-blower…or the eyeball-roller.
It doesn’t help that the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world, with the top 400 households raking in more money than the bottom 60 percent combined. As Dalton Conley, an NYU sociologist, explains, “it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Unlike Denmark, we have a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population that doesn’t even speak English.” When surveys focus on well-off, native-born respondents, the U.S. actually holds its own against Europe. [emphasis mine]
Maybe, since you’re probably an American with your limited attention span and so forth, you should go back and read that bolded sentence one more time.
Beginning to get an idea why I don’t subscribe to Newsweek? We just finished half a dozen paragraphs. And only now do we find out, the entire point of the article, the entire premise that has sent it ricocheting around cyberspace like a jitterbug in a jar…there’s nothing to it. America is made up of capable people who are more-or-less the same as their European counterparts — on top of which, they are remaining equivalently knowledgeable about a vastly more complex system — augmented by this influx of immigrants, of which there are a great many who are not learning the native language and not trying to assimilate. But they get to participate in this survey anyway, bringing down the net score of the country so the smug Europeans can chuckle at us.
There are some countries in the European community which also have issues with immigrants who refuse to assimilate. But I wonder if those immigrants managed to participate in the survey. Or if they cared to.
Well, I’m glad someone is going through the trouble of making sure Europe can feel good about itself.
Did you ever notice that whenever there’s a broad, intense effort to make a certain person or entity feel good about itself, most of the time that person or entity is someone/something that already feels mighty good about itself? I wonder what drives this. Did someone, somewhere, decide there was a shortage of smug Europeans that had to be immediately addressed? Not enough people running around making snide, self-satisfied comments about stupid Americans yet?
Why do we work so hard to create greater abundances of things that are already abundant? This is where the angels and demons look at us, and have trouble comprehending what it is they are seeing.
Update: Neal Boortz has some interesting observations> to make about how the numbers break down.
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