Lack of Education – October 20th

With Donald Trump standing before the nation and spouting disinformation and verifiable falsehoods, half of the country is willing to believe him. How can that be happening? If it weren’t for the sex scandals there might have been a real chance of this liar running the country.

97% of Climate Scientists say that Climate Change is caused by human burning of Fossil Fuels, yet half of the people in the country doubt them and Trump claims it is all a Chinese conspiracy. Only 40% of the country believes that Evolution is real even though that scientific theory is even more settled by scientists. One fourth of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the Earth. How can so many millions be so uneducated?

When I am talking about lack of education I do not mean the simple lack of formal education. I am talking about the often willful ignorance, the lack of curiosity, or the willingness to believe things that are just plain false. “Millions of Americans are embarrassingly ill-informed and they do not care that they are.”

Five defining characteristics of stupidity, it seems to me, are readily apparent.

First, is sheer ignorance: Ignorance of critical facts about important events in the news, and ignorance of how our government functions and who’s in charge.

Second, is negligence: The disinclination to seek reliable sources of information about important news events.

Third, is wooden-headedness, as the historian Barbara Tuchman defined it: The inclination to believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts.

Fourth, is shortsightedness: The support of public policies that are mutually contradictory, or contrary to the country’s long-term interests.

Fifth, and finally, is a broad category I call bone-headedness, for want of a better name: The susceptibility to meaningless phrases, stereotypes, irrational biases, and simplistic diagnoses and solutions that play on our hopes and fears.”

 So why are Americans so much more ignorant than the citizens of other countries?

One reason is the decentralized U.S. education system, which is run mostly by individual states: “When you have more centrally managed curricula, you have more common knowledge and a stronger civic culture.”

Another problem is school funding. Most developed nations have uniform Federal funding for everyone. Much of the funding for US schools is local property taxes which mean that poor areas with a poor tax base are guaranteed to have the worst teachers, facilities and teaching aids like computers.

Another is the high level of income inequality. 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.

One big problem is that the news media which used to be unbiased, has become commercialized, sensationalized and opinionated. Fox news and talk radio has been purchased (or created) to promote a conservative agenda. The other major news networks have been purchased by corporate interests which often suppress news that is harmful to the corporation. Six corporations own 90% of the media. Until a few years ago G.E. was one of those corporations that owned NBC and many other outlets. G.E. made the Fukashima reactor which melted down. Did they suppress news about the spread of radioactivity?

News sources that are not dependant on commercials are more trustworthy (BBC, PBS). The Fairness doctrines used to force the major networks to provide news as educational, not as entertainment and they were required to have balanced opinions and concentrated more on factual reporting than on opinion.

If it bleeds it leads. Anytime there is any violence it is splashed across the networks because it generates viewership and thus revenue. Because of that people in this country believe that violence is terrible and increasing in this country. In fact violence has been declining for the last 20 years. The NRA helps push the idea of violence and the myth that the government is coming for your guns to push gun sales.

How can people be ignorant when the internet provides access to all of the knowledge in the world? I think the problem is that there is too much information. We can not know everything and are overwhelmed by the enormous amount of information out there, so in self defense we limit our input. As a result we only concentrate on information that interests us. Unfortunately that also means that we can limit our information to whatever matches our own biases. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.

There is so much information out there that if we search, we can find information that supports all kinds of bizarre and untrue beliefs. For example very religious people may take the Bible literally and when the Bible conflicts with science those people can find all kinds of studies that “Prove” that the world is only 6,000 years old, and that evolution is a myth.

Who should decide which information is valuable and which information is actually true? If there is local control of schools, the school board determines what information their teachers promulgate. In Texas Evangelicals packed the State school board and since Texas was the largest purchaser of books there was a danger that the entire nation might have been subjected to books that taught that the world was only 6,000 years old.

When politicians stand before the nation and lie, how can we know what the truth is? Can we trust fact checkers?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts”

















About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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