Why Are Americans So Uninformed?

March 2, 2006

Salon ran a dismal poll conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum that showed only one in a thousand Americans can name all five freedoms in the First Amendment. But one in five Americans can name all five characters in The Simpsons.  

Meanwhile, BloggingBaby ran a post noting the crazy number of responses celebrity mom stories get. “Engaging posts on adoption issues, government programs, school funding, snack foods, working women, and more cannot hold a candle to the traffic and comments generated by a single celeb baby post,” Blogger Larissa Brown wrote. “So, readers, what’s up with that?”

No doubt declining newspaper readership plays a role in our growing ignorance. Yes, families are busier than ever, but they have time to watch The Simpsons.

While I, too, am a People magazine reader and eat up celebrity news like anyone else, I fail to understand why we can’t do both: enjoy entertainment and be well informed on world news, politics and current events. This gap in American knowledge always astonishes me. What gives to the lack of intellectual curiosity??

I often wonder if my son will grow up to become one of these ugly Americans given his comfortable lot in life. I had the motivation to read growing up because I was poor and desperately wanted to go to college. I noticed that the few moneyed people I knew were well read and informed. So I mimicked them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all rich people are informed. Just look at who’s occupying the Oval Office of the White House!

But children today have so much non-literary media at their disposal, who’s to say they won’t tune out what’s important?