I was on World Have Your Say again last night (if you’re my mom, you can download the show). The discussion was about Susan Jacoby’s new book The Age of American Unreason, which claims that Americans are getting dumber and dumber. Most of what she had to say was an attack on “video culture”, essentially saying that Americans watch too much TV, which leads us to swallow information in smaller soundbytes with less critical thinking, which leads to a dumbed-down knowledge of the world, which leads to uniformed decisions.
The problem is, when someone — even someone I generally agree with — throws out a shock statistic like “99.99% of adults haven’t opened a single book this year,” you have to wonder about the data collection methods behind the statistic. Swallowing the numbers without knowing where they came from is participating in the dumbing-down. One might even say that throwing out such shock stats is helping to dumb down America.