The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

9Aug/110

Things I Should Have Known

Every once in a while you find out something that you are amazed you didn't know.

Yesterday the thing I was stunned to find out I didn't know was that the "Big Island" of Hawaii is, in fact, huge!  Hawaii and Alaska are never drawn to scale on the maps I grew up with, so I seem to have assumed Hawaii was Bermuda-sized (about 20 square miles).  Quite to the contrary, Hawaii is 200x larger!  At about 4,000 square miles it is about 3/4 the size of a state I'm more familiar with, Connecticut.

And just the day before I was reading an article about Columbia and was appalled to see they had identified the wrong country in the accompanying inset map.  When I double checked with a little Googling I was horrified to see it was I who was in error.  For some reason I'd thought Columbia was not coastal, and was in fact more where the Amazonas province of Brazil is.

While I can't say I've ever made errant decisions as a result of these areas of ignorance, I must confess feel a deep chagrin that I could be so wrong about such a thing.

^ Quinxy

5Jul/117

The Dangerously Stupid Minority in America

One thing that has always shocked me is just how ignorant many in America are.  By no means is ignorance unique to America, nor is it necessarily so much higher in the US than it is elsewhere, but with our vast resources and opportunities it feels wholly inexcusable here.

A timely poll just released a few days ago, asking people when the United States of America declared her independence and from whom showed that a shocking number of Americans didn't know.  Only 58% knew the year was 1776 and only 76% knew we became independent from Great Britain.  How is that possible?  Surely it's a combination of a poor educational system, poor parenting, and some seriously absent curiosity on the part of the ignorant.

It reminded me of all the other frightening points of ignorance revealed by polls in recent years, including:

  • 20% of Americans actually believe the Sun revolves around the Earth (source)
  • 20% of Americans in the run up to the last election were convinced Obama was a Muslim.  (source)
  • 41% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, years after the war with Iraq began, despite Bush repeatedly acknowledging  no connection (source)
  • 47% of Americans (most of whom are Christian) did not know that Judaism is older than Christianity and Islam (source)
  • 36% of Americans don't know the Amazon is in South America (source)
  • 21% of Americans believe witches/warlocks/sorcerers/etc. are real (source)
  • 51% of Americans don't believe in the Theory of Evolution (with 25% actively disbelieving and the others not answering or being unsure)  (source)

I hate the concept of elitism, the idea that any one person or group of people is "better" than any other and deserves a better life, more resources, more power, etc.  But, faced with the shocking ignorance of a good 20-35% of the US population it's hard not to feel we do ourselves great harm by allowing woefully ignorant people equal rights to guide our collective destiny.  Why shouldn't we require that people demonstrate knowledge of important and related objective truths before allowing a person to vote?  So many of our monumental decisions as a nation are made by voted margins much smaller than this collective of the uninformed.  Clearly denying anyone the right to vote is a dangerous activity, and has been a tool used to deny good people their equal rights (see the poll tax of ages past).  But perhaps one day if our interpretation of democracy is allowed to evolve and reflect the technological achievements we've made, we might be able to engage in a more involved and vibrant democracy where people do not vote once every so many years on people, but daily, weekly, monthly, on the many individual issues which shape our nation.  And perhaps then we can apply reasonable restrictions, allowing all the general right to vote, but restricting the right to vote on specific issues to those who can demonstrate the objective knowledge required to make an informed decision.  I can dream anyway...  and it's fitting for a day when we celebrate the ideas and sacrifices of our forefathers.

^ Quinxy