“American intelligence”: an oxymoron?

Let me remind you right off the bat that I AM American; I only live in France.

But justement, when you look at the United States from the outside, you can’t help noticing a disturbing lack of, well, how can I say this?—I’m sorry there’s no easy way around this—a disturbing lack of culture and world knowledge in the average American.

Now of course, the folks who made this video are just manipulating. It’s pretty obvious that only those REALLY bad cases made it into the report:

But already, this guy brings up a few very good points (Sorry, “Embedding disabled by request”)

Once again, I remind you, I am American.

I think this comes from the fact that the Unites States has managed to create a completely insulated “daily culture”. Of course the United States is THE essential player on the international scene, but this just doesn’t seem to trickle down to the average Joe living his daily life. This is partially explained by geography; if you live in Kansas (I have nothing against the good folks of Kansas) you have to travel really far before having any hope of finding a significant cultural change. Furthermore, the daily life of our middle-class Joe is so comfortable that he just really doesn’t seem to care about things ‘other’ than his very-well-provided-for immediate needs. A former classmate of mine called this “the dark side of prosperity”.

America is capable of creating the absolute best in many fields: business, sports, entertainment, but the average of American grey matter seems well below that of other post-industrial countries, and even, sorry, many developing countries. In any case one thing is for sure: if you pit, say, an American High School graduate against a French High school graduate in what we might call a ‘basic knowledge contest’, I’m betting 100% on the Frenchy. I’m embarrassed by that, but hey, I don’t want to lose my money.

But anyhoo, if I’m writing this, it’s because I’ll be needing to run out to my local English-language bookstore to get my hands on a copy of “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby. I got wind of this in a New York Times Reader’s comments column, “Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?” in the “Books” section of their website. There’s already 502 comments as I’m writing this. Passionate subject apparently.

Stay tuned for comments and thoughts on what I’m hoping will be an enlightening read.

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3 Responses to ““American intelligence”: an oxymoron?”

  1. “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? Follow-up 1 « Wandering electrons… but not too far Says:

    […] yesterday’s post on the new book by by Susan Jacoby, “The Age of American Unreason”, I found out today at my […]

  2. “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? Follow-up 2 « Wandering electrons… but not too far Says:

    […] to say that I did finally order “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby from Amazon (see this post and this one too). So stay tuned for a head-first dive into the question of the state of American […]

  3. “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? Follow-up 3: Launch « Wandering electrons… but not too far Says:

    […] March, 2008 See first: “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? Follow-up 1 “American intelligence”: an oxymoron? […]


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