The Books section of the weekend New York Times offers this article:
Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?
A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from "American Idol," appearing on the Fox game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: "Budapest is the capital of what European country?"
Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. "I thought Europe was a country," she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. "Hungry?" she said, eyes widening in disbelief. "That's a country? I've heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I've never heard of it."
Trust good ol' Fox to expand their role in promoting stupidity, having been so spectacularly successful at getting Americans to swallow their bogus hate-riddled infotainment disguised as 'news' all these years. No, their "reality TV" game show prides itself on demonstrating that American Idols are indeed dumber than 5th graders! Something to celebrate…
I mean, with wars going in two nations most Americans can't find on a map and thousands dying or coming home in pieces after having their deployments extended over and over again (while at the same time being prevented from leaving the service when their enlistment is up), who wouldn't rather obsesses over some missing white woman or other, or bemoan the steroidal state of professional baseball?
Author Susan Jacoby's recently released book bemoaning Stupid America is entitled "The Age of American Unreason" and surprisingly, she doesn't simply blame it all on fundamentalist religion. She cites graphically the reason she wrote the book -
…The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.
Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day's horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:
"This is just like Pearl Harbor," one of the men said.
The other asked, "What is Pearl Harbor?"
"That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War," the first man replied.
At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, "I decided to write this book."
While she blames pretty much everyone and everything for a problem that's been peculiarly American ever since there's been an America, she does recognize the insidious influence of 24/7 "entertainment culture," a.k.a. television. By admitting she had a really hard time turning it off in her own home for just a week. Duh!
So I'll ask the obvious questions of those who insist in debates like these that it must be religion that makes Americans stupid… Did religion cause American culture to idolize stupidity, or did our culture's idolization of stupidity cause the explosion in popularity of fundamentalist churches, total family immersion in religious community activities, reliance on religious schools and home schooling to teach children the basics they'd never learn in public schools, general religious disgust with modern culture, and increasingly powerful religious forays into the political arena?
Could it be a reaction rather than a cause?