Wednesday, October 22, 2008
this is an interesting clip from the rachel maddow show that examines what gov. sarah palin said during the vice presidential debate a few weeks ago -- the misquotes, the misconstrued facts, and everything inbetween.
this video piqued my interest because of a book that i'm reading right now called the dumbest generation: how the digital age stupifies young americans and jeopardizes our future -- or the alternate title, don't trust anyone under 30. on a train ride to pennsylvania last weekend with my friend, i overheard someone talking about the book. what they said was so interesting, i dropped what i was reading and headed to the nearest bookstore to find it. the author, who teaches english at emory university in my hometown of ATL, asserts that the intellectual future of this country is dying because young people -- the 18 to 24 set -- aren't reading books. actually, they have a great deal of contempt for books and learning in general. he proves it, with a smorgasbord of statistics, surveys, polls and the like.
i'm somewhere in the middle of the book and i'm starting to believe that he's right.
according to his statistics, young people don't know history. they can't see things in historical context. they are so cocooned in facebook, myspace, iPhone and whatever tweaks them at the moment that they don't know who their local politicans are. they don't understand the importance of basic civics. there is a genuine disconnect from the world and what's happening in it that's stultifying. basically, they live in their own world. instead of studying hard and taking the tests, they take tests to figure out how to take the tests.
when you think about it, it kind of makes sense. why should they be able to name 3 artists from the 18th century? whatever information they need can be googled. why should they have to know that little rhyme "i before e except after c"? whatever word is in question can be spell checked. do you really need to know that stuff to land a great job and make a lot of money or to have any degree of rank amongst your peers? or be famous? or rich beyond your wildest dreams? or be the president of the united states of america?
it's kind of like that kid in english class back in the day when i was in middle school that read the cliff notes version of wuthering heights and/or saw the movie and then wrote a paper about it. and got an A. i actually read the book and got an A, too. but i really loved to read. it wasn't a chore for me. i always whipped through whatever i was given at school, kept the school librarian pretty busy, and maintained a personal library at home. what happened to me? my mother taught me how to read when i was 3 years old.
and therein lies the rub.
it's not that everyone under 30 isn't intelligent or ambitious. it's just that they aren't big on ingesting and retaining general knowledge.
that's when i started to think about gov. sarah palin -- the colleges that she attended, the fact that she never had a passport before she became the vice presidential nominee, how painfully inarticulate she is, how little she knows about world history or even american history, how little she knows about global politics, how she refuses to be interviewed because she doesn't want to be pummeled with "gotcha" questions from the media elite -- i began to see a correlation. i know she's over 30, but let's face it: she's a bright shining example of american anti-intellectualism. she is intellectually where most of the college-educated individuals of this country will be in short order unless something changes, and soon.
let's talk about those "gotcha" questions, for example.
a phd student from philly asked gov. palin a question about "the pakistan situation" and the answer she gave was in total contradiction to senator mccain and in line with senator obama. what a massively huge gaffe that was -- and ever since, the mccain/palin ticket has pulled the plug on such free-form q & a forums, and has stuck to what gov. palin does best: put her best most folksy-est face forward, misquote historical figures and regurgitate well-rehearsed republican talking points over and over again. the thing is, life isn't rehearsed -- and neither is political strategy. answering questions spontaneously shows us how gov. palin would deal with issues that inevitably will occur spontaneously.
i have a question: if senator mccain is elected and dies in office (because he's pretty old and he's pretty sick), will gov. palin's handlers run the country?
but i digress.
haven't we heard all of this "young people are stupid" stuff before? maybe i'm saying that because i've had to hear it a lot. my 92 year old daddy thinks that everyone is an idiot. i can see him now, sitting at the end of the kitchen table, waving his hand at one of us, at the television, at the world and going on and on, saying stuff like, "you kids don't know anything." and he's right. the problem with then and now is that kids today have access to absolutely everything -- and there are some people who think that they aren't necessarily doing anything with it. that may or may be true. but when i see gov. palin waffling over simple basic questions about the policies in her own party -- she seriously had no idea what the bush doctrine was, people! come on! the bush doctrine! how can any thinking republican trust a republican politician that doesn't know what that is!-- i'm inclined to agree.