Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More Educated, Less Informed

In Just How Stupid Are We? Rick Shenkman notes that in the 1940, 60% of Americans had not finished 8th grade. Currently, most Americans have had some college education. Yet they score worse on simple civics tests, such as 'what is the difference between Republicans and Democrats?', or 'how many branches of government are in the US?'

In science, it is pretty bad too. Political scientist John Miller notes that american adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth. In one very funny study, (A Private Universe) they asked students at Harvard's commencement why seasons occur. Most thought it was because the earth is closer to the sun in summer. Harvard grads.


Chris said...

I take issue with the claim that we are less informed. I would argue that we are more informed, albeit about things that do not matter (e.g., the latest celebrity breakup). It is hard to get people to learn about things when they have no interest in them.

Anonymous said...

is it not that it's closer to the sun? and i'm not american. now you made me look it up.

Jim Glass said...

The earth's magnetism shifts seasonally (as the molten iron rolls around inside) and bends the heat rays as they come in. C'mon.

Jim Glass said...

Hey, I read it on the Internet so I know it's true.

Modern information network technology is bringing all the world's knowledge to all of us at marginal cost approaching zero, so human ignorance will soon be abolished. As soon as we take a break from the porn.