In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled: What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?
In the course of the article, it was revealed that, in Finland, there’s no mandatory testing for kids, little rote learning, and that, for the most part, the Finns prefer to let their teenagers be teenagers.
But buried in the middle of the article was an obvious reason the Finns are creating such bright kids: They actually believe in being smart.
For instance, the Finns are big readers. They even have libraries attached to their shopping malls. I’m pretty sure if there was a library attached to Barton Creek Mall here in Austin, the hoi polloi would beat a path through it to Starbucks and The GAP.
And even though the pay for teachers in Finland is roughly the same as what it is in the U.S., it’s a prestigious job there. Applicants for teaching positions in Finland must hold a master’s degree. There are usually more than 40 applicants for every opening. But here was another secret: Teachers have more freedom in the way they teach than American educators do.
The other interesting facet is that Finnish teenagers are better at deductive reasoning than their counterparts in other counties.
We don’t do smart here in the grand old U.S. of A. In fact, we’re a country that despises smart people. The smarter you are, the more you’re distrusted. There’s been an anti-intellectual bent to our makeup since the early 1800s.
Our presidential picks are the most pronounced manifestation of this part of the American psyche. Eisenhower over Stevenson. Bush over Gore. (Does anyone remember the sturm und drang over Gore’s “eye rolling” during debates with Dubya? Yes, being dumbfounded by dumbness is a crime in this country.)
And think about what gets the most coverage in our 24-hour news cycle: Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and any missing, presumed-dead blonde. (We can talk about the meaning of the fascination with the destruction of popular female celebrities and the popularity of dead blondes another week.)
And then there’s the continual assault on science by religious nut jobs. They’ve been remarkably successful in muddying the water in the mind of the public and laying the groundwork for such asinine notions as a degree in Creation “science.” (And no, I’m not going to use the term “Intelligent Design.” What’s intelligent about placing reproductive organs next to waste organs?)
We are a silly and shallow people.
We don’t care about our kids being educated. Not really.
We want them programmed. We want someone else to cram the right dates into their heads so they can get into the right college. Not because we think they’re best suited for college, but because the corporate college culture has convinced parents that their children won’t succeed if they don’t have a four-year degree. We don’t care if they can think for themselves. We just want them to think the “right” thing. (Whatever that may be according to an ever shifting goal line.)
Smart people are portrayed as nerds, know-it-alls, eggheads, and geeks. Our greatest heroes are sports figures, many of whom leave college unable to understand the multi-million-dollar contracts they’re signing.
And the people who don’t give a shit about intelligence at all are just as bad as the “I want my kid to get a college education, but I don’t want them to think” types. The, “I don’t know nothin’ and I’m proud of it” crowd may look as if they’re of a different ilk, but they’re really not. They’re just more vocal and more extreme. (If you want to see deep down, balls-to-the-wall, crazy-stupid, take a gander here.)
But let’s not forget that 98% of Americans believe in angels, while fewer than 50% believe in evolution. The only country in the developed world we beat out on the “evolution or not” scale was Turkey. Awesome.
So, hooray for the dumb! You’ve won! Our culture revolves around you and your dumbness. We feed you junk food and you love it! You get fat from the junk food and we give you useless diets to fix it. We pollute the news with celebutards and you’re transfixed by their fascinating, train-wreck lives.
You want to vote for someone you’d like to have a beer with. As if the presidency were a drinking game and you were going to be there in the Oval Office doing Jello shots. Ye ha!
You love big titties and little minds. You adore monosyllabic words because big words make you feel stupid. You worship the trivial and the vain. And should anyone dare make you gaze at yourself with an ounce of self-reflection, you will crucify them.
God Bless Amurika.