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Wed Oct 13, 2021, 05:21 PM

Paywall: Robert Strong: Dumb and dumber Americans


Excerpt: By Robert Strong: In a widely reported 2017 survey, 7% of adult Americans agreed with the statement that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. That is “udder” nonsense. But more than 16 million people thought it was true. Maybe schools should offer better instruction in nutrition and agriculture; or maybe the ingredient labels on cartons of chocolate milk need a larger type.

The comical cow survey result belongs to a tradition of pollsters posing the burning question: Just how dumb are the American people? Their findings are not reassuring.

Surprising numbers think that vaccines are not safe (45%); climate change is not real (20%); dinosaurs and people lived at the same time (14%); the moon landing was faked (7%); crystal healing has efficacy (6%); and the earth is flat (2%).

In a survey sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center a few years ago, only 26% of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government; 33% could not think of one. Thirty-seven percent could not name a single right protected by the Bill of Rights. I guess you can add civics, geology, medicine, history, and climatology to the list of American educational deficiencies.

All of us have busy lives, incomplete knowledge, and diverse interests. If we don’t have the time or inclination to learn much about what goes on in Washington, D.C. (or in barnyards), that’s OK. But there are limits. At some point, the number and degree of poorly informed Americans raises a critical question. Can democracy prosper, or survive, if too many citizens lack common knowledge and common sense?

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