An acquaintance, Dr. Alex Lickerman, had some thoughts on his blog today regarding how our nation's poor educational level adversely affects our democracy. It is stunning to consider 1 of 5 working Americans are functionally illiterate; is it any wonder we get the results we do?:
"Wikipedia lists the rate of functional illiteracy in the U.S. (as measured between 1994-2003), for example, at 20 percent.
"There are a number of reasons this statistic fills me with dread, but I’ll mention only the one I find most troubling: The solutions our political leaders seek for our most pressing problems are largely determined by which are most popular. And which are most popular is largely determined by our population’s ability to understand the problems for which the solutions are being proposed. Which, as far as I can tell, is dismal. Which means the most popular solutions are also the solutions most likely to be wrong. Which means our population’s lack of education is compromising our political leaders’ ability to solve problems. (If enough constituents understood, for example, the true causes of our current economic crisis and demanded real fixes instead of the appearance of real fixes, politicians might actually feel able to implement them without committing political suicide.)
"We all seem too quickly satisfied with the easy answers our politicians spoon feed us. ... [I]f we don’t educate ourselves, if we allow our politicians and pundits to do our thinking for us, we won’t be able to demand of our leaders effective solutions for our problems.
"For the real solutions to our problems aren’t easy to understand. How do you fix healthcare? First by understanding what’s wrong with it. ... [W]ithout first understanding the root causes of the problems it’s trying to solve, how can anyone possibly judge the quality of its solutions?
" ... [O]ur collective opinion has power. If our political leaders seem to be pushing our country toward a cliff, it’s only because we the people are pushing them to do it."