Author Susan Jacoby's new book, The Age of American Unreason, is raising some intelligent eyebrows among the MPR crowd and on editorial and books pages of some dailies. Even USA Today, usually a bastion of vanilla journalism, opined, "Have we become a nation of frogs simmering our brains and future to death in a warm bath of mindless infotainment, rotten schools and a proud contempt toward rational thought?" I've been wondering the same thing.
The other day I got a raft of e-mail messages from several university students, who, bless 'em, are busy and typically don't write sentences longer than four words in an IM. But I was kind of taken aback when their messages were chockful of spelling errors. Not just little dumb typos, either. Big dumb mistakes, like "their" for "there." And even "their" was misspelled. Another: "shure" for "sure" in three different messages from the same person. These were e-mails from presidents of student organizations -- even the president of the student government. Poor spelling reveals poor thinking, in my mind, and at least displays a general lack of credibility. Or (and this is probably the case) absolute laziness.
I kick myself for being drawn to the likes of "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars," and even "Wife Swap" on TV when I know I should be at least watching, um, "Jeopardy." And when my amazingly well-read mother admits to "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" I know we're in trouble. Why is it so much work to not only be intelligent but to stay that way? Because we're lazy, too.
It's gonna get us in big trouble, people. It already has. Intelligence is essential to self-governance, and we're a nation full of lazy buggers who want to fall back on platitudes, patriotism and and, yes, mindless pap. And if we don't do something to push ourselves a little harder, we'll get kicked off the planet.