Be an elitist — educate yourself
by Kelvin Wade
I love being informed. I was one of those, “Because why?” kids. I needed answers. Years ago, my girlfriend and I went to the Ringling Brothers Circus and saw their featured daredevil clown, Bello. Even though I have a fear of clowns, I went home and learned everything I could about Bello Nock. After three days, my girlfriend was telling me to shut up about Bello.
That’s the way I am. I’ve always been an inquisitive sort. When I find out something new, I have to investigate it. My friend had a stroke and I had to learn about strokes. Another dear friend was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and I probably know more about it than half the shrinks out there.
While I don’t expect everyone to be like me, I am dismayed by the paradox of living in a time where more information is available than at any time in the history of the world, yet people remain uninformed.
Fairleigh Dickinson University recently expanded on a study they did late last year on how well informed people are based on where they get their news. In their study, like similar studies on this subject, they found that people who got their news solely from Fox News were the least informed. In fact, they found that people who watch no news were better informed than Fox News viewers! Ouch.
Now I could use this as a cudgel to bash Fox News viewers as being idiots and those of us who watch The Daily Show can revel in our smugness. There’s no doubt many progressive bloggers will have fun once again sticking it to Fox News viewers.
But what stops me from writing that type of column is the overall results of the study. Most people were able to answer 1.8 out of four questions on foreign news, and 1.6 of five questions on domestic news. The study shows that Fox News viewers could answer 1.04 domestic questions correctly while NPR listeners could answer 1.51. Big deal.
So while yes, according to this study Fox News viewers are the least informed, the real headline should be that Americans overall aren’t very well informed.
If you’re my age, you can recall that before the internet and computers, one had to use his/her brain a lot more than today. If you wanted to research something, you had to go to the library and be able to use the card catalog to find what you were looking for. Or you had to have encyclopedias. Or you had to talk to a person who possessed the knowledge you were seeking.
Today, knowledge is literally right there at your fingertips. And while the internet is full of misinformation, conjecture, opinion and rumors, it’s not that difficult to find facts if you visit multiple reliable sources. But the Right has done such a good job of slandering the so-called “liberal media” and discrediting traditional reliable news organizations that folks turn to partisan websites masquerading as news sites. People feel confident getting their news from biased bloggers and spin doctors whose allegiance is to ideology, not accuracy.
Unfortunately, the Left has responded with their own sites. It seems everyone wants to be entitled to their own facts.
Ignorance seems to be a virtue. A college education, especially at an Ivy League school, is the sure mark of an elitist. GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum famously called President Obama a “snob” for saying he wanted all kids to have the opportunity to go to college. Conservative politics views higher education with suspicion, fearing some liberal professor in sandals and beads is going to steer students into socialist oblivion.
At the same time, we have black and Hispanic high school rates that are double that of whites according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The same report found that low income students drop out at a rate five times higher than their wealthy counterparts.
This isn’t about ideology. It’s about intellectual curiosity. It’s about learning and facts. It’s about finding out information and refusing to embrace ignorance.
If I were a Fox News viewer I’d start augmenting my news-watching with other sources. No question. But according to the results of the Fairleigh Dickinson University study, we all could use more intellectual curiosity. We need to use all of this wonderful technology at our disposal to be the best informed people who’ve walked the earth.
Our intellectual laziness is astounding. So while I think Fox News does its viewers a disservice, I’m not ready to bash their viewers as uninformed morons until I see NPR listeners getting four out of five questions correct.
It’s like living in a supermarket and starving. We can do better than this.