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How Intelligent are Americans?

The segments when Jay Leno would take to the street to ask Americans questions about things that one would expect them to know and those when Jesse Watters of the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News does the same thing invariably suggest that those interviewed are appallingly stupid. But how representative are they of the population?

cartoon - liberals-brain

The voters who reelected President Obama despite a first term that included all his policies that put the nation at jeopardy apparently made no connection between those facts and his competence. Voters who stayed home demonstrated indifference.

On July 3, following the latest U.S. Department of Labor June unemployment report, the Job Creators Network responded by noting that “We have more than 3.5 million young adults between 20-24 who don’t have a job, don’t attend school, and don’t have any degree better than a high school diploma—and astonishingly low literacy rates.” The official rate of unemployment was cited at 6.1%, but the Network calculated the real unemployment rate for June at 12.1%. Suffice to say that government data is so politically skewed that it is useless.

In contrast to the view that Americans don’t understand what is actually occurring Rasmussen Reports on July 3rd released the results of its latest poll. “Optimism in the future job market in America is down this month, as fewer Americans believe the unemployment rate will go down over the next year.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 23% of American Adults think, a year from today, unemployment will be lower than it is today. That’s the lowest level of optimism since December 2011. Thirty-two percent (32%) think unemployment will be higher in a year, a new high for the 2014. Just as many (35%) think it will stay about the same. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.” The reality has not escaped just under a quarter of the likely voters polled and two-thirds have a dim view of the year ahead.

A new Reason-Rupe study and survey of 2,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 finds 66 percent of millennials believe government is inefficient and wasteful - a substantial increase since 2009, when just 42 percent of millennials said government was inefficient and wasteful.

This suggests that there is a difference between the kind of intelligence measured in IQ tests and the kind Americans apply to the world around them and to their own lives. I was the director of publications for the New Jersey Institute of Technology in the 1970s and it was evident to me that having a PhD degree was no guarantee of the latter kind of intelligence, often called common sense.

We have seen this in the way so many “experts” with degrees continue to assert that the Earth is warming (now called climate change) when it has been in a cooling cycle of some seventeen years. Recent polls indicate the public no longer assigns any credit to global warming/climate change. Then why do we continue to read about this in the nation’s media? Perhaps because so many who decide what we read and see are the product of the nation’s schools that continue to indoctrinate students to believe the warming lies and the way “climate change” is now being blamed for everything.

There is evidence, too, that our schools have been short-changing Americans for decades. America is now ranked below many other nations with IQ scores are compared. This is documented in Charlotte Thompson Iserbyt’s book, “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.” In March 2013 Joshua Holland noted that “In 2011, Newsweek asked one thousand Americans to take the standard U.S. Citizenship test and thirty-eight percent of them failed. One in three couldn’t name the Vice President.”

Those of my generation that attended school in the 1940s and 50s have little doubt that we received a far better education than those entering in the 1960s and since. Global intelligence quotients (IQs) ratings based on universal tests routinely rank the U.S. as just barely in the top twenty, outranked by nations that include Japan, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom and Mongolia! U.S. competence in mathematics and science lags too often and too much.

What is at stake is how prepared and how competent Americans are in order to select the political leadership the nation requires in order to be competitive and to respond to its domestic and foreign relations problems. At this writing, the low esteem in which Americans hold the President and Congress suggests they “have gotten the government they deserve” because that’s how democracy works.

Is that stupidity or indifference? I suspect it speaks more to a variety of factors that include education, the news and entertainment media culture, and the way modern communication technologies may be causing Americans to focus only on their personal circle of family, friends and coworkers to the exclusion of the larger issues and trends around them.

It might also reflect the incredible patience Americans show their elected leadership, often taking years before demanding and getting the changes needed to improve the economy and tend to other national priorities. As illegal immigration demonstrates, nothing has been done to address it since the last amnesty in the 1980s and, clearly, Americans do not want to repeat that mistake again.

Are Americans stupid? Some are. To my mind they number among the 30% of the extreme left that can always be depended upon to support Obama and liberal legislation such as Obamacare and other measures to expand the federal government. Add to them those who have currently grant him 47% approval. That number is beginning to decline.

Overall, however, I believe that most Americans are intelligent enough to know that something has been terribly wrong in a nation that permitted the 2008 financial crisis to occur (the government played a major role) and in the present White House that has failed for six and a half years to take the right steps to put the economy back on the road to recovery.

To that extent, I wait impatiently for the results of the forthcoming November midterm elections. Stupid Americans will vote for more of the same. Intelligent ones will vote for change.

Alan Caruba blogs daily at Facts Not Fantasy.  An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2014

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