Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Not so dumb

Left in the West responds to my post about Susan Jacoby's book. I would have added my comments there, but apparently I am too dumb to figure out how to do that. Fortunately, I can still blog here like a real person.

I came close to touching on the point Matt makes in my initial post but decided it probably wasn't necessary. Perhaps it was. I would agree that knowing who all of the Supreme Court justices are isn't necessarily a high priority for most voters, but it does seem that anyone who is simply swimming in the sea of news that surrounds presidential elections would have ingested the name of a justice or two. Arguably, appointing justices is one of the president's most important powers, and it's a bit troublesome that so many people seem not to take that aspect of the job even into consideration. It's even more troubling that so many don't even know what the Supreme Court does. People with these levels of ignorance aren't simply making Supreme Court appointments a low priority in their evaluation of candidates; they have no clue that it even matters.

I would make a stronger case about finding Iraq on a map. Responsible citizens are obligated to consider the merits of wars in which this country engages. Not knowing where Iraq is -- or even why it matters where Iraq is -- is a fundamental disqualification. It it even possible to have an opinion about a war with no knowledge of the terrain over which it is fought?


Chuck Rightmire said...

I think, David, that the real problem is not the knowledge of the Supreme Court and the location of Iraq. Those are just symptoms of a myth that we live in rather than an awareness of our culture. Given that, we have a number of citizens who don't understand the history of this country or the place of the Constitution. For instance, it took John Marshall to give the court its current status. And we have had a number of amendments to the Constitution that have changed its meaning in one way or another. Or that this country was not founded on anti-taxation, but on No taxation without representation, which is a different thing altogether. And what some of us who are not business people have happening to us in Helena with the Republicans in a controlling role.

Dan C said...


I tried to leave a comment on the original post, but I am apparently too dumb to have done it correctly.

What you and Chuck point out is similar to my point of view. Being able to name all the members of the Supreme Court is only as useful as being able to name the seven friendly miners who bunked with Snow White if you don't understand WHY they are important. What people lack today is the ability to put knowledge in the proper context.

Anyone can find anything on the internet and proudly claim it as fact. What is problematic is understanding the importance of information and how it fits in with current situations.

If a person knows all 56 Montana counties and the county seats, but doesn't understand why a cowboy from Custer County has different passions than a logger from Libby, they've failed their civic responsibility.

That kind of understanding and being able to explain it is what makes good newspaper editors good.

Thanks for your good work, my friend.