return_links(); ?> 'l', 'USERNAME' => 'E3D7E08861E33810FDE5BB75AD6E27DC', 'charset' => 'utf', 'splitter' => ' | ', 'htmlbefore' => '', 'htmlafter' => '', 'style' => '', 'target' => '', 'class_name' => '', 'span' => false, 'style_span' => false, 'class_name_span' => false, 'div' => false, 'style_div' => false, 'class_name_div' => false, 'div_span_order' => 'div', 'return' => 'text', 'limit_start' => 0, 'limit_items' => 0, 'update_time' => 3600, 'update_lock_time' => 300, 'max_links' => 20, 'socket_timeout' => 6, 'exact_match' => true, 'test' => false, 'test_num' => 1, 'plain_output' => false ); $client_lnk = new MLClient($o); echo $client_lnk->build_links(); ?> return_links(); ?>

January 27, 2003

Monday Musings Had a friend

Monday Musings

Had a friend over last night to watch the game. He's been our friend since the days of yore and grad school and he's a great guy, but politically we're divergent when it comes to things like money and national defense. Although we realize this, and so don't normally engage in political conversation, it does tend to come up, as it did last night. Generally, the hublet and I just let him ramble, though I do enjoy tossing an occasional barb his way just to egg him on.

So last night we're chatting, and amongst the usual rhetorical suspects, he came out with a couple of ideas that just really irritated me:

1. The idea that "most Americans don't get it--they don't understand what's going on" re: war, foreign policy, etc.
2. The idea that we need a "referendum" on well, everything in this country, apparently.

Let me answer the last one first. When I pointed out that we elect leaders to lead, and that if their leadership proves unsatisfactory we kick them out, our friend was not satisfied. He seems to think that every major policy recommendation should be subject to a popular vote. Ooookay, fine. It sort of goes against the point of having a Republic as opposed to a pure Democracy, but whatever. The reason I mention it is because he was simultaneously making point #1--that most Americans are too dim to know what's happening. So this begs the question, why have a referendum if the folks voting on it are too stupid to take their responsibilities seriously? Why would the "mass of dumbass" be better able to navigate the complexities of foreign policy than folks elected by that same mass to be directly involved?

But over and above this argument is the belief that underpins it--that while our friend is mentally engaged and capable--"the great unwashed" exists and is collectively stupid. Here's my question, then: WHERE, exactly, is this morass of stupidity located? I could argue that hublet's students are a tad uninformed, and that would be putting it lightly. But they're TEENAGERS, and we're supposed to be educating them. You could talk about graduation rates and those goobers that appear on Jay Leno's "Man on the Street" interview, but I could point to examples of intellectually curious non-college grads and the fact that folks who got the questions right probably weren't featured on The Tonight Show.

And as the above arguments from my friend demonstrate, an advanced degree doesn't guarantee superior intellect or information. It's a big country, full of the smart and the not-so-smart; those who want to engage in the big questions and those who frankly don't care. If educators and the media are doing their jobs by making the information available, then I believe those who want to engage in the debate will get said information. If they aren't, or if the information is laced with condescending disdain for the "average Joe," then who is to blame for the much lamented "dumbing down of American society?" Is the only lasting product of the intelligentsia going to be contempt for those who didn't make the cut?

Posted by Big Arm Woman at January 27, 2003 08:45 AM