No? Then I’m sure this post is preaching to the choir, but even so Nicholas Kristof”s op-ed piece With a Few More Brains… in the Sunday New York Times today is a must-read for anyone concerned about the relentless dumbing-down of political discourse and the dismal state of education in this country — two issues that are intertwined (IMHO) and among the most urgent problems of our times. In Kristoff’s own words:
A Ohio University poll in 2006 found that 36 percent of Americans believed that federal officials assisted in the attacks on the twin towers or knowingly let them happen so that the U.S. could go to war in the Middle East. Then there’s this embarrassing fact about the United States in the 21st century: Americans are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution. Depending on how the questions are asked, roughly 30 to 40 percent of Americans believe in each.
A 34-nation study found Americans less likely to believe in evolution than citizens of any of the countries polled except Turkey. President Bush is also the only Western leader I know of who doesn’t believe in evolution, saying “the jury is still out.” No word on whether he believes in little green men.
Only one American in 10 understands radiation, and only one in three has an idea of what DNA does. One in five does know that the Sun orbits the Earth …oh, oops.
I urge you to read the whole article and forward this to anyone you know who’s on the fence or doesn’t get it. For although Al Gore may be working hard to raise awareness about global warming, insisting that if we “put our minds to it” we can find a solution, that assumes — and requires — there are minds to apply to the problem in the first place. And that’s where the importance of enlightened politicians and press, educators and technologists come in to play.