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Ignorance is pervasive, and it isn't just about science

Here is some jibber jabber about ignorance, intelligence, and education. Is it getting better or worse in America? What is the political angle about this story? First of all, scholars at the American Enterprise Institute devote much attention to the quality of education in America and its high cost, and downward performance trend. They do so because intelligence is a critical success factor for the nation. Often, attention is given to math and science aptitude and corresponding knowledge because that is where the jobs are, and meaningful employment with upward mobility. Here is a bit of irony, a Fox News story about science ignorance.

'Our economic and education policies have created a nation of mindless riff-raff.' Jim Olson
Mark Wilson, Getty Images North America

"Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts," said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.

The report quotes a poll that says:

“About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority -- 51 percent -- questions the Big Bang theory.”

Fox News may just as well have said over half of our audience is ignorant and that would be believable. Here is another reference that cuts Americans some slack.

“CONCLUSION: I’m embarrassed that Americans are so poorly traveled and so bad at geography and languages. Although other big countries aren’t much better, they usually are better. And yes, Europeans do know more about geography and world affairs than most Americans. However, the difference is not as big as Europeans like to believe. Moreover, I wish American media devoted as much time to news from developing nations as the European media does. On the other hand, I often assume that other countries know much more about the world than Americans, and I’m often disappointed to learn that it’s not accurate. In conclusion, it’s true: Americans are ignorant about many things. However, Europeans are hardly much better and sometimes their provincialism makes them worse.”

Referring to another angle on the subject, here is a note from an AEI scholar having to do with fairness in debates about education and our state of ignorance or intelligence, whichever it is.

“My point is one which both liberals and conservatives can agree on – that the press needs to include real debate, so that the public can be fully informed. If the article had presented a wholly pro-union slant, with a “champion of the status-quo” given the bully-pulpit, I have little doubt that Hess would have written about how the Oakland Tribune has a liberal bias, and how the reporter should have included a “reformer’s voice.” And Hess would have been right, that his viewpoint had been censored.

If we are to make the right changes in our educational system, changes which work for our students, and for our country, it starts with complete, accurate, transparent reporting.”

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