Why don’t people know this stuff?

A few days ago, a reporter walked out on the street after doing a story about the Supreme Court to see how much random passersby on the street know about the court. When asked how many justices are on the court, several people thought 35 sounded about right. When asked what the court does, some thought it passed bills.

Recently, news reports of a Pew Research Center study showed that half of all Americans don’t know six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Years ago, when Jay Leno was the host of the Tonight Show, he went out on a city street from time to time and asked people simple questions such as who’s the governor of your state and the kinds of questions that appear on a basic citizenship test. The studio audience laughed at the stupid answers.

My response to such things is why don’t people know this stuff?

Some say the schools are at fault. Some say we’re in the middle of the entitlement culture where folks think “it’s all about me” and don’t see any point in knowing what isn’t about them.

I don’t suppose high schools and middle schools have civics courses any more, but they must have some course that teaches students how the federal government is structured. If history is still being taught, it’s hard to see how students got through school without knowing about World War II and the Holocaust.

But when it comes down to it, it’s a shame studio audiences think ignorance about basic stuff is funny. Surprising, yes. Sad, yes. But hardly funny.

The latest incarnation of the “Weakest Link” is is currenlty airing on NBC. I’m surprised by the questions people miss. Some of the answers should be known by people in elementary or middle school. Okay, let’s stipulate that in a quiz show studio, things are a bit chaotic. But still, why don’t people know this stuff?

Some of my college professors thought it was more important to know how to find information when we needed it rather than having an encyclopedic memory of facts. Perhaps people today think they have no need to know stuff when all they have to do is go to Google or WikiPedia for the answer. Okay, that does make some sense.

Yes, I think we need a certain amount of knowedge just to function. Some basic facts and ideals. Enough stuff to make intelligent decisions about life, politics, career choices, &c.

I guess many people think “this stuff” doesn’t matter. If they think that, then I worry that one day we’ll all be governerned by the weakest link.

Malcolm

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