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« Where Does (And Should) The Money Go? | Main | Ask the Reporter and Producer: Exposé on Bill Moyers Journal »

An Age of American Unreason?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Conversing with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON author Susan Jacoby offered various reasons for what she calls “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” in America, including our educational system:

“You shouldn't have to be an intellectual or a college graduate to know that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. There's been a huge failure of education. I do agree with many cultural conservatives about this: I think schools over the last 40 years [have been] just adding things, for example African-American history [and] women's history. These are all great additions, and necessary, but what they've done in addition to adding things is they really have placed less emphasis on the overall culture, cultural things that everybody should know. People getting out of high school should know how many Supreme Court justices there are. Most Americans don't.”

What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Jacoby that America faces “an overarching crisis” of civic irrationality and ignorance?
  • If so, to what extent does the problem lie with America’s educational system? Politicians? The media?
  • Do these outlets reflect the priorities of interest groups more than essential knowledge for the public good? What reforms would you recommend to promote civic intelligence?

    (NOTE: Another interview with Susan Jacoby from the Moyers archives is available here.
    Several viewers have written in stating that the Constitution does not specifically state that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution or all judicial review. Some legal scholars maintain that Article III does imply it and many argue that Marbury V. Madison only formalized that authority. )


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    Comments

    bjr je n'ai pa pus traduir tout l test en francais et je voulais solicité a savoir si vous pouvez le fair pour moi et me l'envoyé dans mn EMAIL suivant gaelba_2002@yahoo.fr je vous ecrit depuis l pays des homme intègre(burkina faso) que dieu vous benisse

    after ok

    To Krolka 3-4 7:29 PM
    Thanks for your (& all educators) determined devotion to what may be our country's most important National Security issue!

    There are so many concerned comments demonstrating the importance of electing the right people to run our govt. for the people, and that is refreshing.

    A mockingbird hunts to feed its young with ruthlessness, from the eyes of the insect, but with devoted love from its young.
    I knew someone that refused to clean or cook a phesant because a few hours ago it had been out running around on its little legs; when ask what about cooking chicken, the answer was that it was different as the chicken breast had come from a supper market.

    If children are sent to school with the steril hands off, they are the teachers' problems now, attitude then our schools will not improve.
    With out parents' & society's support schools can not improve.

    Without out attentive, involved citizens, then our political process will end up just where Nader warned about decades ago!

    What is CHANGE that "lets" Calif., Texas, Ohio, finally have a say in which senator will be president?
    What is wrong with all the states selecting from ALL qualified candidates?

    Reclaim "by & for the people"!

    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob, Fla.

    As a public schoolteacher, I don't know if I could get out of bed in the morning if I truly had to attempt every last miracle society was expecting me to accomplish with such a diverse array of learners. Anyone who critizes what we do or don't know needs to try it out for themselves first. Also, some of my students are endlessly fascinated by history and civics, while others could care less. It's my job to engage them and present a fair pool of knowledge, but what they do with it is their own choice. There's no shame in holding a profession that doesn't require the knowledge Jacoby deems essential. Somehow the world keeps turning for academiks and dopes alike!

    And to reform "the system", I would make community service a universal graduation requirement. It gives the kids experience and helps everyone branch out a little bit more.

    Ms. Jacoby makes a rather saddening observation on the intellectual state of the average American. Recent polls place the number of Americans who cannot locate Iraq on a map at over 60% (Varying substantially depending on the source, but regardless, the number is disturbingly high). This is only part of a much larger distinctly American trend that can be most accurately labeled as "anti-intellectualism." With a focus on mathematics, reading proficiency, and grammatical skills in our nation's public schools, the humanities have gone vastly underfunded and are consequently unknown domains to many American schoolchildren. The emphasis on these subjects, while they obviously helpful in attaining jobs that require practical skills and are also far easier to measure on a standardized test, do not encourage the kinds of independent, free thought that history, geography, philosophy, the arts, and the sciences can provide. While American students are exposed to a distinctly secular education, they are not taught comparative religions in schools, and cannot reasonably be expected to respect and understand the cultures and religions of others if they are not exposed to them. In addition, our society places more value on quantifiable subjects, rather than subjects where answers can rarely be divided into "right" and "wrong" categories. A prevailing view that American children, who consequently grow into American adults, should only be taught the basic essentials for living and not be informed of the vastness of our world, both past and present, is a reflection of a general antipathy for intellect by both religious leaders and politicians of various sects and parties. The American school system must devise a system that allows students not simply to attain a diploma, but to enter into the workforce as educated and learned individuals capable of drawing on a wide variety of subjects in formulating their opinions and beliefs. This can only occur when American anti-intellectualism is deflected, or at least counter-balanced by the general respect for curiosity and personal academic freedom.

    Ms. Jacoby makes a rather saddening observation on the intellectual state of the average American. Recent polls place the number of Americans who cannot locate Iraq on a map at over 60% (Varying substantially depending on the source, but regardless, the number is disturbingly high). This is only part of a much larger distinctly American trend that can be most accurately labeled as "anti-intellectualism." With a focus on mathematics, reading proficiency, and grammatical skills in our nation's public schools, the humanities have gone vastly underfunded and are consequently unknown domains to many American schoolchildren. The emphasis on these subjects, while they obviously helpful in attaining jobs that require practical skills and are also far easier to measure on a standardized test, do not encourage the kinds of independent, free thought that history, geography, philosophy, the arts, and the sciences can provide. While American students are exposed to a distinctly secular education, they are not taught comparative religions in schools, and cannot reasonably be expected to respect and understand the cultures and religions of others if they are not exposed to them. In addition, our society places more value on quantifiable subjects, rather than subjects where answers can rarely be divided into "right" and "wrong" categories. A prevailing view that American children, who consequently grow into American adults, should only be taught the basic essentials for living and not be informed of the vastness of our world, both past and present, is a reflection of a general antipathy for intellect by both religious leaders and politicians of various sects and parties. The American school system must devise a system that allows students not simply to attain a diploma, but to enter into the workforce as educated and learned individuals capable of drawing on a wide variety of subjects in formulating their opinions and beliefs. This can only occur when American anti-intellectualism is deflected, or at least counter-balanced by the general respect for curiosity and personal academic freedom.

    No suicide bombers before Irag? What about those who destroyed the World Trade Towers?-Will

    Will, the towers were destoried by the massive collision of two air plane,
    There were no sucide bombers in the planes.

    The problems in the education system only further enforce the fact that the system that runs the systems, i.e. the government is the problem. When the brain is broken the body can't fuction properly. If a government is broken the institutions with in it can't fuction properly. We need to change almost every aspect of the government NOW!


    Not having fully read into Jacoby's opinions on the matter, i would still have to agree that the education system in this country is shameful and that alone shows great ignorance and irrationality in the people having allowed this to happen, and continue to happen with no real change in sight. the public needs to remember that they make the rules and if enough of them don't like something it needs to changed, and no one that I've talked to thinks very highly of the education system, yet it is far less funded then a wide array of less important issues then the education of your children!

    the media talks about everything but, the politicians sign bills on every thing but, the education system is worse then some of the third world countries we pay to help. We need a new education system, government and media all together. that is the furthest extent any problem can have. completely starting over with everything because a broken system can't fix its self.

    NO MORE INTEREST GROUPS.
    The only interest there should be in government and big business is interest in the people who form it not interest from the people who form it.

    For James A Patton Feb.17th
    take a look at this;
    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html

    Over the last few years I’ve had several discussions with people about the Iraq War. Every one of them was absolutely certain that the Constitution gave the president the authority to declare war. They stared at me in disbelief when I quoted the Constitution to prove the president had no such authority.

    Article I, Section 8 provides that only Congress has the power to declare war.

    After a while, most of them admitted they’d never really read the Constitution. When I asked if they remembered discussing it in school, none of them could recall any such discussion.

    Yes, our public school system is to blame.

    In October of 2007, Mario Cuomo wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about Senators Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, and a few of their colleagues proposing a bill to make it illegal for the president to declare war. Cuomo pointed out to these Senators the same thing I’d pointed out to my acquaintances.

    Article I, Section 8 already provides that only Congress has the power to declare war.

    These representatives either had not read the Constitution, or were playing politics to cover up their own culpability for ignoring the law when they granted the president this authority.

    Politicians and the media, through co-dependent interests, reflect information that benefits their own interests, to the exclusion of essential knowledge required by an informed electorate.

    Yes, politicians and the media are to blame.

    We must wrestle control of our educational system away from the federal government, and from special interests such as the teacher’s unions, and empower parents and teachers locally.

    We must start by retracing our steps, educating ourselves on our own laws and system of government. We must find all the things we discarded along the way when we became dependent on government to teach us, and on media to keep us informed.

    It is the sunny lower 60s again today in Albuquerque. I am housesitting near the endangered Rio Grande. This state is under a Red Alert for forest fires except in the west where there are no trees.
    Beret Co-op sent me here to look for internment camps (FEMA-KBR type) but I've not been able to find any. It is our way of substituting healthy skepticism for cynicism, reasoning things out using real facts. What I've seen is rock art surrounded by new housing developments.
    Now I understand why the Hopi deity Massawa is a crazy giant with his face burned off: If humans mess with this tinder box it's "the fire next time" already. My hosts left me a book "Unpeople" by British historian Mark Curtis. It's apparently all the rage in Anglican counterculture. Basically, if you can't pay the freight, you're meat to
    the Bigman and his lending institutions (Worldbank, IMF, USAID and so on).

    I finally came to the rational conclusion during the Tuesday night Clinton/Obama debate that they are either both Judas goats or both insane. We can't expect to feel prosperous and secure in a world where people ate more food than was produced 7 of the past 8 years, and where scarce fresh water is increasingly privatized by wealthy speculators. I don't know why we're even talking about electric cars and healthcare during an ecological crash. Maybe we should be discussing backyard gardens and bicycle safety.

    At Beret Co-op we start with the assumption that money is an optional social contract. We don't obsess over the FED or gold. Our mantra is: "It is difficult or impossible to become or remain extremely wealthy in a peaceful and just society."

    What I see is an increase in energy prices. That alone is enough to initiate a Great Depression in this tight margin system. Then we have sustenance shortage (food/water/clean habitat) which drives up basic costs more. The moves of the President (tiny stimulus) and the FED (bigger money supply, lower interest for the elite financial class-2.5%?- compared with Jackson Hewitt tax loans 85% and punitive credit card rates-35%- for working people) are like a baby at its imaginary carseat steering wheel. There's a crash coming, and those who don't see it are irrational.

    Ethically:
    1.Ethanol is genocide by starvation for "unpeople."
    2.Hyperstagflation negates the social contract we had with financial elites.
    3.Lies and propaganda by growth oriented capitalist interests and their domination of our government may have brought us to the point of ecological collapse and the end of civilization so it is WRONG to tell us about a rosy future no matter what color or gender you may be.

    It may be too late, but Sarah Chayes said it best,"Real determination, not false hope, is needed now." Reason it out Moyeristas: If the people in charge have been thinking about a reaction to the truth by spending only $385 million (a relative pittance)on FEMA internment camps they have been lying (self-deceiving) to themselves too.

    My advice from New Mexico is: Ride your bike:Plant a garden:Make dear friends from all walks of life:Don't count on the election or hostage (26 days) Bill Moyers for anything. I'm scheduled for Puerto Rico via Miami Saturday night if a rare Alburquerque snow doesn't ground me. I'm on the road unlike Moyers and Brancaccio who are chained to NYC underwriters.

    It wasn't a huge leap from classic American anti-intellectualism to our society's present rejection of reason in toto.

    As a very child, I heard adults say occasional admiring things about Adlai Stevenson and asked who he was -- only to be told he was someone who'd run for president and been rejected by the public as an Egghead. In my teen years, fretting about boys who found me unapproachable, I was told, "Since you're so smart, you should be smart enough to hide it." As a National Merit Scholar in college, I finally found a world that got a kick out of me. Should've stayed in academe. The wider world is still ruled by C students who despise thinkers as much as they did in high school, and now find new ways to rationalize it.

    I think it's interesting how close we are to the edge of the earth. How white can our teeth be? How fast can our cars be? You notice how they keep rehashing the same old story lines for movies. We are realizing how finite the human experience can be. We are running out of ideas that people can care about. I know there is still some miles to go but we will be there soon. Everyone's since of entitlement will be forfilled, utopia achieved. It will be nice, real nice.

    Maybe we should consider the evolution of unreason. Few people would disagree that Americans are frustrated and devalued. There are tens of thousands of public and charitable systems that spend billions of our resources to document innovative approaches and promote themselves. These expanding educational services produce abundant documentation regarding functional deficits and the potential for legal abuse, but little to record what really worked to stimulate effective daily learning for the individual students, parents or teachers. Why don't we love and value our children, parents and teachers enough to offer them the right to assess and document what they really learned and were proud of everyday? What was ineffective or a waste of time and what they shared with others? It is their life and daily educational experience, right?
    Maybe a simple data base and 5-15 minutes a day to help account for their personal time and effort? Writing things down requires reflection and validates what we think and can be easily shared with others at their leisure.

    Education- learning is an individual process resulting from our unique minds ability to receive sensory stimulation-information, assess it potential value and act. How we act each moment of the day defines our character, how others currently perceive us, in future social interactions and our legacy. Education becomes important to us when we are inspired, consistently involved and are able to learn. Individuals become frustrated or disempowered when they are unable to act in a personal or socially valued manner, feel they have no viable avenue of involvement or that the issue will not be impacted regardless of our actions.

    Individual pride would be enhanced by the simple offer of some personal accountability,an accessible process, consistent mutual trust and respect.

    I want to be a part of a proud nation that realizes that although we are a society accountable to others, it is the choices each of us make everyday that defines our daily lives and social legacy. Do you?

    Respectfully

    Darwin Vaught
    Charleston, WV

    This is my first time. I feel so less alone. I thought I was just a voice in the wilderness. Ms Jacoby is mostly right, except for cau tauing to the infallabel god of science, whom is proven wrong on a daily basis.I never understood why we so quickly except what scientist tell us as absolute. We can perpetually look back ten years and think "boy those scientist sure did have it wrong." Our dumbing down comes from an over arching source, "enoughness". I like the direction our country is taking. There are still a few dinosaurs left in the park. Wanton amibtion,irresponsible capitalism, repression of any kind and the classic republican party to name a few. You can hear them kicking and screaming.Hopefully we can be rid of them before they destroy everything. Sorry if I am rambling. I am just happy to vent.

    To Paul 2-29-3:02 AM & 2-20-6:37 PM AND
    to John 2-20-10:39 AM
    Your comments underline my belief why our country is & will continue to be the country of & by the people.
    I respect the scientific theory, but remember that "under ordinary chemical means" had to be added to the definition of matter.
    I am a christian that had trouble with assertions that God would forsake Jesus Christ, as some suggest he did on the cross, but found my answer in the 22nd Psalm as referenced by Arnold Murray that Jesus was teaching with his last breaths.

    My point about our country is that very emotional based subjects can be discussed without suicide bombings, education denial to keep citizens in place, machine guns, machettes, etc.

    May God continue to bless us all!
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob

    John, I'm not looking for some gotcha, I don't need one. What I'm interested in is truth and hard facts from science. On the topic of the creation of life, science has none, just guesses.

    Continue on with your belief we all came from some goo. It requires more faith than the faith I have in the existence of a creator.

    It's unclear to me why most scientists get all offended when the topic of a creator comes up. It's still just as interesting to figure out how things are made regardless. I see a grain of sand and wonder how it is made and by whom, no different than if I found a watch on the same beach. We accept that the watch has a creator but somehow can't accept the sand might just be created also. It's no less interesting to discover how it is made, be it the sand or the watch.

    I have a suggestion for a guest for the Journal.

    Paul Rogat Loeb is an associated scholar at Seattle's Center for Ethical Leadership. His book Soul of a Citizen is a wonderful Rx for our time. I haven't read his book : The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizens Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear
    ( 2004).

    We wouldn't miss a Journal broadcast and value it in this time of need.

    Meredith Whitaker, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401


    EVOLUTION

    Evolution Theory is a Creation Theory of Charles Darwin’s Intelligent Design.

    =
    MJA

    The 'election' of George W. Bush in 2000 was NOT in itself a measure of the ignorance of the American electorate, although the little that people really knew about him did translate into almost 50% of the votes.

    Rather, it was the absolutely perverse 're-election' in 2004 that defied all reason and decency.

    But, it gets worse: We are about to make the same perverse choice again. As of today, it is clear that either a neoReagan (vote for me because I'm black) Obama OR the Keating-5 Napalm Bomber Hero of Viet Nam will the the next US president.

    We would do well to take to heart what Susan Jacoby is so eloquently telling us and what Abraham Lincoln told us in 1842:

    "Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense."
    -- February 22, 1842 - Springfield, Illinois

    In reply to Paul's post on 2/19, thank you for helping to make the point regarding the how little understanding many Americans have of science and the scientific method.

    The notion that because we can't predict with certainty what we will evolve into somehow invalidates the theory of evolution is a stunning piece of bankrupt logic. I find that many followers of a pseudoscience - like astrology or intelligent design - always think they have come up with some clever "gotcha" that somehow "proves" real science is false.

    As a religious person with a Ph.D. physics, I see no reason why religious beliefs and real science can not co-exist (see Collins's The Language of God for a decent treatise on this). Each can have their own place in your life and one does not "disprove" the other.

    Association may not be rational, but it's how we work. So if crack heads are bad, crack is probably bad too. Intellectuals are our 'seekers the truth', and so we want to look up to intellectuals. But when we see they are just as childish and criminal as the rest of us, our disappointment is not only with them, but by association, also with ideal of 'seeking of truth'. For example, while trying to learn about low-fat vs low-card diets I came upon a flame war blog between two endrochronolgists. It was like the old Saturday Night Live skit with each post starting with a string of insults like "Jane you ignore sl**", followed by some short scientific point. I didn't learn anything from that blog , and I felt a little less confident that I could ever learn about nutrition at all. How many courtrooms across the country today had two extensively credentialed (and well paid) academics each testifying to two diametrically opposed 'absolute scientific truths'? Anyone whose been told they have to buy the new $200 edition of the Calculus 101 book because last year's book on the centuries old subject is obsolete knows this disappointment and has had their love for 'seeking the truth' dampened.

    I think Jacoby's major argument put forth in this interview is that we have forgotten our real freedom lies in our ability to not just make choices, but to make INFORMED choices. And how can we make informed choices without first have done the proper research? Furthermore, how can we do the the proper research if we're constantly(as another post stated)walking the path of least resistance? When did thoughtfulness and patience become our enemies? We all know that many of our biggest problems like education and health care cannot be solved in a day, so our eyes glaze over. We must be thoughtful, patient, and persistent in our efforts to effect society. Lifelong learning is key.

    Someone mentioned that we need to get back to teaching the basics, and another person mentioned discipline. I would submit to you that teachers need to demonstrate to children that they have genuine concern for each and every one. My husband is a teacher. We talk for hours every evening about ideas for his classroom and about his students. He adores them, and he lives to teach them. He teaches them that each has a right to an education, that disruption in the classroom robs the other students of that right, and that education is valuable. Once they believe it, they begin to want to learn and he can teach them anything. Every year it takes a few months for this transformation to occur, but when it does, creativity commences and the desire to learn opens like a blossom.
    Testing, schmesting. Do you want teachers who really teach? Find teachers who are passionate about education and genuinely care about their students, then pay them what they are worth. As a legal secretary, I am paid far more than my teacher husband. Teachers of this caliber exist. Every year, their salary increases are eaten by increased benefit costs. It is easy to see why good teachers choose to leave the field of teaching. They want to be able to send their own children to college.

    This is my 3rd post to the Moyers\Jacoby discussion, but the recent comments about education cause me to share some direct experiences.

    I am a leading edge baby boomer & remember a 4th grd. class when snow began to fall & all students rushed to the window. The teacher insisted everyone return to seats, but no one responded until she called my name & said " I know your mother, she & I are in the same circle at church. She will be upset to hear you won't mind!"
    I went to my seat.

    In the 90s a middle school teacher told me about a phone call with a difficult student's mother, "Don't ever call again! I have enough trouble with him at home & when he is at school he is your problem!"

    The large majority of teachers I have met are competent, caring & at the same time disparing at the amt. of time required to maintain order vs teaching. It only takes a couple of students to disrupt a class.

    I was good at sports, hunting & fishing, but school just got in the way. I did what I had to in order to get by, & this is true to some extent with every generation. If parents don't push their kids (mine did) then many will just slide by.

    As long as our systems place feelings above results then many students will just slide by.

    During the 60s I went to college, joined a faternity, didn't make my grades, was drafted, but joined the Air Force, went to another country, work was highly classified that required experience beyond the regs. A major did not know as much as I did, but he had a home on base with his family & money while I barely got by. Officers had to have a 4 yr. degree & I became motivated & had 2 babies while getting my 4 yr degree so I wouldn't always be passed over by someone that didn't know as much as I did! I became motivated!

    Without a system that teaches values, the ABC, until students find a motivation then there may not be a reversing of the "leveling of ambition", which is a main contributor to the failure of socialism.
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob


    Liberals? It's fine to have no moral center but hold it unreasonable to view science from its reality of relativity. Should we teach that the Sun is the center of our Solar system and that there is no other authority for forbiding murder than it feels right?

    Steven Johnston writes "(Paul) please get your scientific information from credible sources, you are being lied to. Start by learning the meaning of the word "theory" in science."

    Steven, Yes, I understand the scientific meaning of "theory", and one important aspect of a valid scientific theory is it can be used to make calculations and predictions. Please tell me, based on the theory of evolution, what will humans evolve into in 50,000 years? With all the "evidence" proving we evolved from a primordial soup, certainly we should know what we will become.

    The truth is we have no clue scientifically how life got started or how this world has such a diversity of species but people who have no room for a creator in their thinking continue in their conjectures and force their guesses on the world as fact. The problem comes when these scientists can't confess they really don't know for sure and sell their ideas as fact and then hide behind semantics when new evidence shows their earlier guesses were wrong. I look to science for facts but when there are none then we just have guesses gussied up as "theories".

    I know, I'm just ignorant for calling a guess a guess. There is an elephant in the room called intelligent design but most scientists call me ignorant when I point it out.

    My apologies Steve Cross, my post below should have been directed to Paul

    Steve Cross: "Susan, you embody for me the classic elite liberal. If I do not agree with you then I must be ignorant. If I do not accept the theory of evolution as fact then I am ignorant. Susan, it is a theory because it is unproven. It is unproven because there is a lack of evidence."

    I think this comment highlights the problem with science education.

    Steve Cross, please get your scientific information from credible sources, you are being lied to. Start by learning the meaning of the word "theory" in science.

    Wherever this nation has found itself at any moment in time has always been a product of all that has come before. This is no less true today. Name any one factor, and someone will be there to assert that it is not to blame. Which in a sense is true: where we are is the result of a “perfect storm” of social, cultural, technological, and political factors all working in tandem. Most of these factors—the state of public education, attitudes about public education (including the modern tendency to abandon it or view it in a state of denial), parents’ values and behavior, the pap that media serve up to the masses—all of these have been mentioned here.



    I’d like to add a few of my own observations, first on the state of the schools. From conversations with one friend who’s a principal and another who conducts teacher workshops and evaluates the projects they turn in, the quality of our public school teachers is in critical decline. This is not a blanket indictment of all teachers—just an anecdotal observation of a trend.



    This trend is not limited to the quality of the teaching, but to the quality of the teachers’ own education. Our public schools have been gradually filling up with teachers who can’t follow written instructions. Who can’t write a 3-page paper of greater than “C” quality (and many not even that). Who plagiarize and think nothing of it (or don’t even understand that that’s what they’re doing). And who can’t even find countries on a map themselves, much less teach geography to their students.



    Second, on parents. From first-hand observation I’ve noticed an upward trend in what I call “path of least resistance” parenting. Parenting is hard—even very hard. And of those parents currently raising today’s 1- to 15-year-olds, very few seem to know how (or want) to do “hard.” Instead, they do “path of least resistance.” Whatever gets them past the moment, past the hour, past the day. It’s one thing to resort to that in a pinch—we all have. It’s quite another to make it your de facto parenting style. And that’s what seems to be happening.



    The inevitable product of that: a cadre of self-involved, entitled, undisciplined and un-self-disciplined youngsters. “Do my homework? Not now, Ma, I’m busy texting. Oh, and shut the f-ing door on your way out, willya?” And “Ma,” who has long since passed the point of no return on this path of least resistance, meekly complies.



    Put kids like that together in a room and add a teacher who is the product of an inferior education. Factor in a likely ill managed school system bogged down in bureaucratic red tape that has absolutely nothing to do with learning, much less leaving any child behind.



    Dump onto the pile all the textbooks that are poorly written and often just plain wrong. Pour on a good dose of IM’ing and txt’ing and video gaming and Myspacing and TV watching and MP3-ing, and juice up the distraction factor thereof. Not to mention the technology-heightened sex and violence factor.



    Light the fire with politicians on both sides of the aisle—one group who wants to solve the problem by subsidizing the exodus to private schools and the other who would rather throw money at a sick system than examine it—and you get what we have today. A situation that is epitomized by that adult contestant who, pitted against a third-grader on national TV, looked dimly at the game host and said, “But I thought Europe was a country! Hung(a)ry? That’s a country?”

    Yes, I agree that America
    is facing a "dumbing down"
    of our knowledge of our own
    history, culture, and institutions, as well as the rest of the world's
    countries and cultures in
    general.

    Our public education system is broken, and needs to be fixed by going
    back to teaching the "basics". I believe this applies to both public schools, as well as
    to colleges and universities.

    American's loss of understanding of our own system of government, civics, and history may ultimately lead to the loss of our freedoms,
    democratic institutions,
    and democracy itself.

    I have recently been reading Al Gore's newest book titled, "The Assault On Reason". For the past seven years I have come to feel like everything I ever learned in my fifty-five years concerning our laws, our constitution, our government,our morals and ethics, as well as our place in the community of nations and as a world leader was totally wrong. Reading Mr. Gore's book has assured me that it was not just me. His is one of the most direct summations of everything that has happened in the American narrative during the past several years since 9/11. It carefully delineates the incomprehensible harm that the current administration has done to all of us and the world community as a whole. Please include this book in further discussions such as "The Age Of Unreason". Thanks for speaking out and bringing Susan Jacoby's important commentary to us! Keep up the good work!

    I whole heartedly agree with Ms. Jacoby. It amazes me the number of store clerks that can't make change if the register doesn't tell them.

    I agree with Ms. Jacoby about our "overarching crises...". Part if the problem is that government does not want an educated constituency that continually challenges it. Part of it is the taboos that religion places on any questions of its basic tenets and part of it is corruption at all levels of government responsible for managing the provision of education.

    Comments I agree with, agree with parts of, & disagree with ,but see where they are coming from, caused me to read those posted to date.

    In my earlier post 2-16-08 10:22 AM I added a PS that was the reason for me to get involved with internet research which basically questions why so much intellectual energy has been expended to "folks" & "troops" usage and so little to the right of USA voters to participate in representative govt. as denied by "Mean" Dean & the DNP.
    Given that every modern day elected president has come from a 2 (realistically) party system, then denying the right of a state to participate in the selection of a presendital candidate is worthy of intellectual scrunity. So to Duck Soup 2-16-08-11:16PM, how do you explain Obama, et al, agreeing to disallow a 3rd parties' rights such as the "troops" in Iraq from Fla. & Mich.?
    Why is this seemingly of little interest to you in-ta-lect-u-alls? Maybe Jacoby thinks U R dumb down.
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob 2-17-06-9:50 AM

    If we are talking about discourse grounded in fact, then it interesting to note that no one seems to have noticed that she said foreign treaties have to be approved by the Congress - in fact, the Senate approves treaties. At least someone picked up on Judicial Review.

    Of course, it was an interesting interview and she makes some good points. It’s always been a lament of Europeans and others that even among educated Americans, the only thing we seem to want to talk about is real estate and the stock market. Unfortunately, I have to concede they have a point.

    America is in a funk right now and these kinds of books tend to get a lot of attention during these times.

    I compare this period we're in to the funk in the early 90's when the other Bush was President. The zeitgeist at that time was that we were on the verge of becoming a "has been" country destined to be owned by "Japan, Inc." Lots of books were published saying stick a fork in us, we're done.

    ...then the "Roaring 90's" began and we were on top again. Even some Western Europeans politicians and intellectuals were beginning to wonder whether they should consider an American style socioeconomic model. If this book had come out during this time, it would have been relegated to obscurity.

    But now...America is feeling back on the ropes again and this kind of book is porn for people who enjoy a good America bashing in the morning to jump start their day.

    I have no doubt she'll be treated like a rock star when she goes on book tour in Europe.

    I found the interview with Ms. Jacoby fascinating. It certainly explains a lot - we now have the corporate media choosing and marketing our candidates and influencing our elections. If a candidate is going to take on the corporations, they are toast as far as the media is concerned. Remember how Hillary was villified on healthcare fifteen years ago and now it is the topic du jour for all candidates in both parties? In retrospect, she seems very wise as we pay 50 times as much for the same U.S. medicine as they do overseas. Dumbing down is certainly at play. I long for the day when people vote on the issues and not the fluff that is marketed by the media. If the media is behind you, what kind of deals have been made? I've seen the winners of the debates on the issues for the last seven years LOSE and the losers gain office. Doesn't take Einstein to figure out that the theory presented by Ms. Jacoby is a major factor that has infulenced elections and resulted in our national debt doubling in the last seven years and our great great great great grandchildren's futures being mortgaged to China.

    It has already been commented on several times that Ms. Jacoby made a bad historical mistake in asserting that judicial review in in the Constitution.

    It might also be noted that some conservatives have talked about overturning Marbury v. Madison should they take over the Supreme Court. The argument is that since the three branches of government are equal, each branch is on its own to figure out what the constitution and laws require.

    Susan, you embody for me the classic elite liberal. If I do not agree with you then I must be ignorant. If I do not accept the theory of evolution as fact then I am ignorant. Susan, it is a theory because it is unproven. It is unproven because there is a lack of evidence.

    Susan, I know there are nine supreme court justices and it would please me as an American citizen if they did decide to value human life enough to slow the free flow of abortion in our society. But to you I am ignorant because I have this opinion.

    It is the classic liberal spin, if a person doesn't agree with me then they are ignorant. And from what I can tell from your interview on the show, you wrote an entire book on it. You glorify FDR but obviously ignore his decision to imprison American citizens of Japanese descent and steal their property. Also he started in motion an entitlement society that has led to a financial nightmare that our current politicians refuse to address because it is political suicide. But it was so nice he would chat with Americans via the radio. How sweet. What a great American. It will take great political courage to undo all the damage he has done. But I am obviously ignorant because I have this opinion.

    While I value the opportunity to hear opposing points of view, I won't be purchasing your book. I'm too busy to read it, working as a productive member of society. Besides, I simply need to turn on the TV to hear opposing points of view, the news and PBS is full of opinions that are contrary to my own.

    A brilliant woman and someone of whom the American shakers and movers should take notice; or rather, the subject matter she has taken on: the total and complete ignorance of the American populace because of the abominable standards this country sets for its education (in comparison to the education of other industrialized countries). This cannot be rectified for it is due to a general malaise in this country: a total non-caring of educators; a media that cares more about its ratings, thus incoming dollars; the laziness of politicians; and the extreme emphasis -- not on knowledge and wisdom -- but on money in pursuit of the American Dream, which is nothing more than "instant gratification" seated in greed.

    As other countries are ever advancing in our now one-global world, this most serious lack of education will cost this country dearly in losing its no. 1 economic status in the world when the next generation becomes its workforce. Or, if not that, it becomes an elitists-run society more than it is already today, with the wealthy being well-educated and the populace becoming ever-more ignorant.

    How to remedy this? How can one instill a desire with this country’s citizenry to become better educated? Perhaps it is a good thing to loose its no. 1 status, for there will be a point that all Americans will have to wake up to the realization that others in the world are far, far ahead in just about all of the world departments. That will bring the American spirit of competition back rather than current complacency, which will in turn bring about study after study about "Why did we fall behind?" Until finally, someone just like Susan Jacoby will come on the scene once again and write another work on The Age of American Un-Reason. Perhaps, we should heed NOW the words of this brilliant woman!

    A brilliant woman and someone of whom the American shakers and movers should take notice; or rather, the subject matter she has taken on: the total and complete ignorance of the American populace because of the abominable standards this country sets for its education (in comparison to the education of other industrialized countries). This cannot be rectified for it is due to a general malaise in this country: a total non-caring of educators; a media that cares more about its ratings, thus incoming dollars; the laziness of politicians; and the extreme emphasis -- not on knowledge and wisdom -- but on money in pursuit of the American Dream, which is nothing more than "instant gratification" seated in greed.

    As other countries are ever advancing in our now one-global world, this most serious lack of education will cost this country dearly in losing its no. 1 economic status in the world when the next generation becomes its workforce. Or, if not that, it becomes an elitists-run society more than it is already today, with the wealthy being well-educated and the populace becoming ever-more ignorant.

    How to remedy this? How can one instill a desire with this country’s citizenry to become better educated? Perhaps it is a good thing to loose its no. 1 status, for there will be a point that all Americans will have to wake up to the realization that others in the world are far, far ahead in just about all of the world departments. That will bring the American spirit of competition back rather than current complacency, which will in turn bring about study after study about "Why did we fall behind?" Until finally, someone just like Susan Jacoby will come on the scene once again and write another work on The Age of American Un-Reason. Perhaps, we should heed NOW the words of this brilliant woman!

    As far as I can tell, no place has been provided to comment on Lori Grinker's photography of Iraqi refugees.
    The loss of life, the disfigurement and the reduced and terrorized circumstances evoke pity from some and only voyeurism from others. It does not win my sympathy that some suffer because they assisted our illegal and horrific invasion and occupation as an employment. In a way they can be likened to the hungry and ill informed scabs who assist exploiters by breaking a strike.
    I do not want my neighborhood decimated like theirs but fear it could happen if our government continues its crimes and deceptions. You see, I believe our government (elite and covert) was complicitious in 9/11 and that there are several reasons our Mideast wars are crimes with all that implies. The reason was probably Peak Oil and diminishing returns to our wealthy class.
    The United States has long cast a lenghthy shadow in the world. We called Mexico corrupt, but it was the shadow of our Wall Street greed that put them in darkness. We called Africa ignorant, but it was our ignorant greed for raw materials that kept them stupid. We called Arabs violent, but we brought a violence and heartlessness to bear that dwarfed anything they could muster. We call China exploitive, but it is our mindless consumption and greedy off-shoring that has caused their wage slavery. It is even our mindless lust which drives sex tours, sex slavery and the porn industry. Our long, wide shadow is starving the world for truth.
    There is no reason our poison should not come back to us in violent mercenaries, drug addiction,repressive government,hunger and energy starvation, This is one world, and I doubt our feeble and exhausted military can tame much of it, doubt that a Chinese Wall concept can seal our borders, doubt that we can ever get learning up to speed now that we are dumbed down, doubt that the monsters responsible will ever be tried or punished. About the time you pour that ethanol in your scooter, you'll be too starved to ride. And about the time that Internet juice begins to flow from your new solar panel the sky will go dark. It's not the rapture, not Jesus angry we haven't completely used up creation. It's only the end of civilization because America waited too late to change her ways.
    P.S. Lori Grinker: You have a nice camera. Take some horror shots at home and save the jet fuel. We are ugly too.

    Tiger01 1:27am- You must be one of those anti-intellectual youngsters we athiest intellectuals fear so much. You certainly exhibited a disregard for Moyers blog etiquette when you quoted me without credit:
    "How sad that foolish beliefs that are childish and wishful thinking are held up to keep people moving down a suicidal path toward Fascism and ecological collapse. Neither George Bush nor any other politician truly believes that the Bible is literal truth. It is only a threatening fantasy used to control relatively powerless people.
    If you must agree that 2+2=5 under the threat of waterboarding then the truth is moot."
    You worry that injustices overseas are much worse than those here. We in America are purportedly exporting democracy. I think our democracy tank is about empty. Oh, when we run out we'll just squeeze some good old Tiger01 in there. A world famine in grains is pretty near. Ethanol production and a crop failure from global warming this fall could bring it on. What think ye, Tiger01, about your Furher's false flag 9/11 attack? Was it for our education? Don't mess with this patriotic dwarf, baby!

    The URL did not post so use the search term FreeRice with ,United nations.It is basically a vocabulary building game in which twenty grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programe for each correct word added.I have added three thousand grains to the total in the last two days, )

    The link is to an example of one simple idea that can help in some measure..Its not just about feeding people , but building vocabulary.Nuanced communication depends on precise and accurate wording It can be critical in delicate situations.I wonder if people in public service might not be encouraged to play this game?

    Wow! What a powerful program on Friday night. It haunts me still. Although I am sure that your viewers are well aware of our inability to deal with our national financial problems to hear them spelled out so clearly
    minus the gloss brings the problem squarely into the light. And our education system is certainly failing us. I am a great fan of Neil Postman but had not read Susan Jacoby. I have just ordered her book and look forward to reading it. It is almost inconceivable to me to learn that fully 75% of college students think the sun revolves around the earth. As for creationism, well I have a good friend who is a doctor, a man of science and I was much surprised when I learned he believed in creationism. His reason: it was prettier and more uplifting. Go figure.
    But what truly haunts me is the work of
    the photographer. I came away deeply ashamed. We may not have directly caused some of those tragedies but we are certainly complicit in them. That we have laid the groundwork for so much pain and human suffering makes us international criminals. And that saddens me deeply. What have we become that a barrel of oil is worth more than human dignity? Our pursuit of happiness at untold cost to others has robbed us of our soul.

    The most critical information concerning governmental affairs is denied by mainstram media. I think there is a concerted effort to do so.
    hg

    Great woman, Ms. Jacoby, pointing out that the gullibility not just of the American public, but of people practically the world over, and the dumbing influence the Establishment and its religious branches exert, is a serious problem that affects all of us in more ways than we realize.
    She mentioned the Rapture. This is a product of the fertile imagination of someone claiming that it is based on what is written in the bible. It is not. This is not surprising, since the religions of the world are not based on anything written in the bible either. They are, as Bill Maher likes to say, made up out of whole cloth. So is the Rapture.
    What many people don’t realize is that the Rapture came about because two words: “earth” and world” have (deliberately?) become to be thought of as one and the same article. Of course they are not. One is the solid ball we stand on and the other is an abstract, representing the mess we have made on it.
    The problem for the Establishment is the pronouncement made by Jesus, fervently anti-religionist and anti-establishment, when he talked about “the end of the world”. He meant their world, the one he rejected when he was offered power over “all the kingdoms of the world”, if he would accept it on the Establishment’s terms. Later on he said “I am not of this world”, also falsely interpreted by some religious spokespersons as meaning “I came from another planet”.
    By subtly substituting “earth” for “world” in our minds, the prediction is given a fearful meaning, as if the Creator would blow his wonderful creation to smithereens. This will not happen, but it keeps us in fear, and that is where the Establishment wants us. It keeps them in business. They may even suggest that their scientists will do anything in their power to prevent God from destroying the planet with us on it.
    The Rapture, be assured, is not going to happen, because there is no need for it. The earth abides forever.
    Words are powerful tools, but a word can totally lose its original meaning, as Ms. Jacoby relates what happened to the word “soldier”, which has been replaced by “troop”. It would be more appropriate to refer to them as victims of the usual lies when it comes to waging war.
    In this connection look at what happened to the word “faith”. One can have faith, but one cannot have “a faith”. Faith used to stand for the conviction that a prediction would come true, as one could say “I have faith in Jesus’ prediction that this violent world will come to an end and will be replaced on earth by a “kingdom of heaven” (not one “in heaven”. Heaven is not a place, but a condition).
    By making the adverb “faith” into a noun all the original meaning is lost, since it now became another word for “religious sect”.
    It would be well to realize that our minds are being manipulated by the Establishment and its religions. They count on us not to be too critical and ask too many questions, so that they can continue their profitable practices unhindered.


    Dumb objectivity, poor historical memory, poor critical thinking skills, little fact checking--these failings of the American people are but the symptoms. The real issue, the bigger picture, as is once again not significantly discussed, is what causes these symptoms. While our education system is to be partially blamed, and rightfully so--since it was designed to create human tools, not critical thinkers--the real problem is the Establishment Press. And, of course, the government is to blame for both of these problems (but, then again, they did this intentionally, to create sheeple who are easily led and misled):
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8404777388320594019

    A free press driven by economic means will always turn into a propaganda tool for big business and for a fascist government. The only way to have a free press with integrity--to educate the public, to provide historical memory, to elucidate truth and critical thinking, and to fact check--is to have a free press free of economic and governmental influences and to have public news programs that are extremely well funded and widespread, easily available. All of this is, and has been, well known.

    So, the problem is the current "free" press driven primarily by corruptible economic forces:
    http://excaliburbooks.com/RedAlert/press.html

    The solution is to have extremely well-funded and widespread public news programs and newspapers free from governmental and economic forces:
    http://excaliburbooks.com/RedAlert/goals.html

    An authentically free press, one not bound by economic nor governmental forces, would be the key solution to the educational problems Americans now face, and, in turn, almost all of our other problems.

    Bill, why don't you make a report on what the real problem is and what a real solution would be, such as the above.

    --
    We are being lied to; know the truth:
    http://www.ExcaliburBooks.com/RedAlert/

    Great woman, Ms. Jacoby, pointing out that the gullibility not just of the American public, but of people practically the world over, and the dumbing influence the Establishment and its religious branches exert, is a serious problem that affects all of us in more ways than we realize.
    She mentioned the Rapture. This is a product of the fertile imagination of someone claiming that it is based on what is written in the bible. It is not. This is not surprising, since the religions of the world are not based on anything written in the bible either. They are, as Bill Maher likes to say, made up out of whole cloth. So is the Rapture.
    What many people don’t realize is that the Rapture came about because two words: “earth” and world” have (deliberately?) become to be thought of as one and the same article. Of course they are not. One is the solid ball we stand on and the other is an abstract, representing the mess we have made on it.
    The problem for the Establishment is the pronouncement made by Jesus, fervently anti-religionist and anti-establishment, when he talked about “the end of the world”. He meant their world, the one he rejected when he was offered power over “all the kingdoms of the world”, if he would accept it on the Establishment’s terms. Later on he said “I am not of this world”, also falsely interpreted by some religious spokespersons as meaning “I came from another planet”.
    By subtly substituting “earth” for “world” in our minds, the prediction is given a fearful meaning, as if the Creator would blow his wonderful creation to smithereens. This will not happen, but it keeps us in fear, and that is where the Establishment wants us. It keeps them in business. They may even suggest that their scientists will do anything in their power to prevent God from destroying the planet with us on it.
    The Rapture, be assured, is not going to happen, because there is no need for it. The earth abides forever.
    Words are powerful tools, but a word can totally lose its original meaning, as Ms. Jacoby relates what happened to the word “soldier”, which has been replaced by “troop”. It would be more appropriate to refer to them as victims of the usual lies when it comes to waging war.
    In this connection look at what happened to the word “faith”. One can have faith, but one cannot have “a faith”. Faith used to stand for the conviction that a prediction would come true, as one could say “I have faith in Jesus’ prediction that this violent world will come to an end and will be replaced on earth by a “kingdom of heaven” (not one “in heaven”. Heaven is not a place, but a condition).
    By making the adverb “faith” into a noun all the original meaning is lost, since it now became another word for “religious sect”.
    It would be well to realize that our minds are being manipulated by the Establishment and its religions. They count on us not to be too critical and ask too many questions, so that they can continue their profitable practices unhindered.


    At least 60% of the people around you would be walking barefoot if someone smarter hadn't invented shoes.
    The advances of a handful of geniuses have made possible a vast sea of half-wits, all driving around in circles in little chimp-wagons.
    People nowadays are so dumb you can blow up a building in front of them and they won't notice.

    bill moyers' program, week-in-and-out, is one of the best on TV. unfortunately, susan jacoby's appearance was a disappointing low point. first, as a posting in the WASHINGTON MONTHLY, in response to a WASHINGTON POST op-ed by jacoby that covered much the same (minimal) ground as he MOYERS' presentation notes, she offers almost no credible evidence for her claims. worse, many of her examples, as

    several earlier posts here have noted, were simply dead wrong or hopelessy simplistic. emblematic of her own shaky grasp of basic issues was, for instance, her show-stopping claim about the CONSTITUTION specifically authorizing the SCOTUS to interpret its meaning.

    hello, fellow human beings--enjoy the show and love the posts!!! Susan Jacoby is fortunate to have the opportunity to express herself on PBS and have real listeners. And I feel fortunate to be able to post here, as well. I'm not college educated and I consider that advantageous to my own free thinking and trying to stay open minded and non prejudiced. This takes effort. I'm not sure it's possible. Thinking has always been my favorite pastime and learning is what makes life worthwhile to me. I am truly blessed. I loved school and most of the teachers I had. Life is very difficult today and I'm glad I chose not to have children. Our language is babble with each of us assigning our own meaning to our words causing never ending misunderstanding. We are at present confronted with many seemingly confounding issues--where are the answers, what are the answers? It's unlikely one human being exits that has them. Those that are excitedly waiting for Jesus to come and solve all our problems, I say, hurry up, but He did not cause the status quo--WE DID! We're all in this life together, we each contribute to the way things are. I'm convinced we can create a better reality than the present. I have learned I have so many choices it boggles my mind sometimes. It is my responsibility to continue to learn so I can make ever better ones. I see myself ever more so as a valuable part of the whole family of humanity and a valuable individual as well. Every human being has equal value and worth to me. Wish every person felt this way. So much of my life experience and learning has come from bad examples and I'm hardly alone here. I do not believe people are dumb. I think more, we are all unaware of the truth, what I call--God's Truth. Humans have infinite potential, we may not even have reached first base. We can do so mch better than we are. Any consciously aware thinking person can 'see' this, knows this. There is much beyond and deeper than 'intellect'. I believe the truth and what is real exists in 'invisible land', where gravity is, thoughts are, and consciousness is, and much more. We know these things are real but we can't see them in material reality. They have great influence. There is so much more to life than what is visible. Perhaps the devil is more an invisible negative influence on human consciousness than a red man with horns and a pitchfork tail. I believe humans can do better than think we have to compete with each other for everthing just to survive. This is flat stupid. How long are we going to srtuggle with capitalistic economy that has proven it doesn't work? For all those who patriotically still say this is the best country on earth, I say, look at how things are!!! It's pitiful. WE CAN DO BETTER. We have to change. Capitalism and competition have to go. We need equality, co operation and unity. Life is not a game, I do not at all understand why anybody would choose to accept this. Get rid of money--look how limiting it is, can' we find a better means of exchange than this?
    how can we ever come together politically when the system is set up to be divisive and competitive? And the candidates, c'mon, no one person knows everything or is an expert at everything. There isn't even a list of qualifications for them to adhere to. Just ego and money. We need new definitions for freedom and democracy. We need better than majority rule. We need better than plutocracy and corruption, deceit and lies. We live in a world of lies on a ball of confusion. Fighting does not solve anything, the resentment lingers until the next fight. Life is not about winning and losing. What a mess we are in. Hope, I still have some. The God I believe in(but NO human created religion) obviously does not use command and control, but free
    will and CHOICE.

    Thank you,Bill,for the most stimulating and educational hour found anywhere on television. Your conversation with Susan Jacoby was both revealing and thought-provoking. As for the ignorance of our society, the blame lies with us, the American people. We demand job training instead of education. We accept ideology and indoctrination instead of philosophy and logic. Our school systems never challenge us or our children with the big questions about life, civic responsibility, our support of corporate greed through consumerism, and our place in a global society. While some see television as one of the causes of the decline in American thinking and discourse, we all know that TV only "sells" us the programs and products that we demand. Public fascination with celebrities reveals that our problems "...lie not in our stars, but in ourselves."

    As Susan Jacoby pointed out, we get the government we deserve, but we also get the educational system and entertainment that we deserve. We are the enemies of reason and responsibility because we choose to settle for less rather than demand the best. While what we watch reveals a great deal about ourselves, we don't want to be confronted with having to think about ourselves. That's why we're more interested in Oprah Winfrey's most recent interview than we are in the Journal. Entertain us, sells us what we want or think we need, but don't challenge us to know ourselves or examine the lives of "quiet desperation" that we all live.

    Since watching this program Friday night with Susan Jacoby, I'm still thinking about the discussion in general and the use of the words "troops" and "folks" in particular.
    So struck by Ms. Jacoby's views was I that I was tempted to email the Barack Obama website and tell them that I object to his use of the word "folks" when speaking to us. However, last night while I listened to his speech in Wisconsin, and his use of the word "folks", I realized that I really don't believe that he is talking down to us. I thought about the fact that I was born and raised in Arkansas, and that language is always in flux, thankfully, and not a static thing. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt, knowing that the African American community in Chicago probably uses the word "folks". As for "troops', my father was a master sergeant during WWII and he used the word troops all the time.
    When Jim Lehrer shows the pictures and names of the men and women who have been killed in Iraq, I certainly don't think, Oh, well, that's just a troop. I look at the face of that soldier and feel an overwhelming sorrow for the loss of their life, for them and their families. I ferverently hope Obama wins and will end the war in Iraq. Then I will truly be one of his "folk".

    I wish for once that someone in the media would give us some credit for thinking for ourselves, and know that we don't believe everything we hear on TV.

    At present, I'm reading David McCullough's biography, John Adams, and one of the themes throughout the book is Adams' love for the language and its proper use. I cannot imagine Adams himself objecting to either word.

    The reason people have survived this long is their ability to recognize problems and deal with change making necesary corrections to guarantee their survival. It has become self-evident that there are fault lines in our democratic system. The most serious fault lines are giving the president unlimited power so that he can become a dictator, the action to change the constitution to remove people's rights and the institutionalization of lobbyists who corrupt the politicians who then support vested interests Instead of their constituants best interests. Many people have died to protect our rights and freedom which the government is presently undermining. "It is our right; it is our duty to throw off such government and provide new gaurds for our future security". that is the sum total of american patriotism.
    If we want our country to be what it was intended to be; we need to do what is necessary to change our present course.
    Preemptive stike and torture is not consistent with our noblesse oblige. It undrmines our moral fiber.

    I believe mainstream American TV has a lot to do with this information gap. Most American media serves to sell consumerism and promote capitalism. As former advertising executive Jerry Mander asserted, when you let clutter into your mind, it never leaves. Much of the collective American consciousness has been cluttered by un-information. Mander says, "Technological civilization is destroying nature and human life."

    Thank god for Bill Moyers! I've been a huge fan of his interviews going back the the great series with Joeseph Campbell. The voices of reason represented by his many guests continue with this latest conversation. The points raised by Susan Jacoby resonate clearly with my minds eye experience here in the conservative, Christian, ignorant community of Deer Park, (Spokane) WA. But like she points out, they are not listening. Just like in global warming, the critical mass time for the action of intelligent education is passing us (USA) by. The future will happen in spite of our decline, and the universe will continue to evolve without humans.

    Thank god for Bill Moyers! I've been a huge fan of his interviews going back the the great series with Joeseph Campbell. The voices of reason represented by his many guests continue with this latest conversation. The points raised by Susan Jacoby resonate clearly with my minds eye experience here in the conservative, Christian, ignorant community of Deer Park, (Spokane) WA. But like she points out, they are not listening. Just like in global warming, the critical mass time for the action of intelligent education is passing us (USA) by. The future will happen in spite of our decline, and the universe will continue to evolve without humans.

    I felt a deep and unfourtunate truth touched on in the segment:An Age of American Unreason. I am most likely a example of a younger viewer of the journal at 24, and I feel this interveiw depicts my generations flaws to a fine point. I feel these facts touched on in the segment are a sign of the bleak future of the american intellectual.

    It has become over the past eight years or so very evident to me that I am not the common member of my own generation. I am offen left in bewilderment to the ideas and actions of my equally aged constitutes. Even more often am I questioned and ridiculed, not for a lack of knowledge but for a seeming abundanse.

    It is this seeming abundanse that frightens me. I was fortunate to be raised with traditional education (college,etc..)as well as self education (recreational reading,etc..)held in high regard. My parents instilled me with a lust for knowledge that I couldn't imagine my life without. Yet I am ever confronted with the fact that few others of my generation have such lust.

    The "abundance" becomes a hurdle. Much like Socrates, I cannot help but to philosophize, inquest, and probe the minds of my fellow man as it was how I was raised. I will normally ask a seemingly simple(or at least direct) question, only to be given the blank stare of irrecognition.

    Irrecognition at questions that on the surface I believe are fundamental to
    American existence. "Who do you believe should win the presidency?" is often answered with a quick and unsatitifying rhetoirc response.

    "The Democrate" or "The Republican" is often the first entry of a answer, but like Socrates I probe on driving the conversation with the socratic method. I will simply say "why?", "because they ain't gonna do what Bush has done" is the default democratic instilled rhetorical answer. Not to be out done the average secondary response from the default republican goes "because they believe in the bible, and what it teaches". Any answers I've been given beyond the first two vary from the reiterating of sound bites to misconceptions in regards to the basic princples of the party they claim superiour.

    For instance it would seem if you ask the average republican voter, what the fundamental ideals of the party are, and why they vote in such a way. The answer is mostly in regards to the idea that republican "conservativism" is equal to or congruent with biblical "conservativism". This is of course not the fundamental principle of the GOP as their conservative ideals are in regards to the size of government and a minimal use of national fiscal assets. Again I find myself looking to Socrates for my next move, as i will go on to explain the differnce in the fact and "truth" as they seem no longer to be connected.

    Yet in all of my effort in learing into my fellow young citizens minds, the vast majority end devoid of any actuall idea of their actuall ideas. It isn't bound to the non-college educated(or to the young either) as it would seem that rhetoic(its also ishearting to see how frequently this word is unkown) has worked them over. Like a world class boxer battling a child, they seem to never have had a chance to gain their intellectual footing before the indoctrination has already pumbled their mind.

    This can only be the fruit of the current American Zeitgeist. An Age of American Unreason, perhaps will be the label in which historians will use when speaking of us. It doesn't seem like a unlikely label, altho it should be a warning much like the "jolly roger" poison symbol.

    As I mentioned in the start of my injection of hopefully unbiased opionion, I am a college student. I study Mathematics and Physics( I am aspiring for no less than a masters in science), yet again I am alone. Nearly no one else in my advanced courses is an american, the few others trecking forward with me you could count on one hand. This very subject of American Unreason is at the heart of my conversatons with my classmates.

    Intellectual Exodus, it sounds silly when you say it. Yet I find this more and more in conversations with my classmates. "Europe, their I will be respected instead of belittled." is a common idea that is held. How would the irony taste, if like some type of mirror of history. We were to witness the mass exodus of the up and coming educated secularist to Europe, to evade anti-intellectual persecution?

    Or will I and my sarce ilk find the answer yet again in Socrates? To devour the hemlock of ignorance, in order to kill the that which the state has deemed dangerous to its democracy? I couldn't imagine a way to turn off the engine that is my mind, so it would seem I might be left only with the exodus option, only time will tell.


    To anyone who read this, I appreciatet being heard.

    I found myself nodding in agreement with Ms. Jacoby last Friday night. Earlier in the day our president proclaimed that the impending expiration of the FISA law covering wiretapping would make us less safe. How much less safe? Did the wiretaps do any good? Were there abuses? Such questions were far too involved for our leader and his audience. He said it so it must be true. I remember our vice president saying that the "detainees" in Guantanamo had to be held indefinitely because they were "bad people." What does that mean? Political discourse has become a kindergarten playground shouting match. A popular conservative aphorism goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." One might say that it's more important to have a belief, no matter how unreasonable, than to learn something outside your experience. I offer a competing aphorism for "intellectuals." "If you know nothing, you have to believe everything." Or, more gently, "The less you know, the more you must believe."

    The lone word "academics " on my comment below was the beginning of a different thought that answers the question about reforms.
    It was just misplaced,which brings me to my one last thought.We should not place the entire responsibility for teaching civics on academic institutions.Remember all the biology we forgot from high school? The public needs to be exposed in many ways ,and often to information about how their government is structured and works. If need be newspapers can create crossword puzzles and offer up a fact a day. it is doable if we think its important.

    i am a college student desperately searching for the truth, and i think i have found a worthy teacher and mentor in bill moyers and the community whom he calls his viewers. i used to flit through cnn, msnbc, cbs, abc, and fox for some sort of insight...and found none. i even looked to the idiot bill o'reilly hoping that his different perspective could give me, a "liberal californian" some nuggets of truth. here, i find none of the spelling errors, logical errors, contradictions, cursing, or namecalling. you all, and bill moyers of course, give me hope that the human race isn't doomed to some sort of self-destruction brought on by our apathy and ignorance. i don't agree with you all, but your arguments are logical, well reasoned, and though not unemotional, are not blindly passionate.

    I reject the notion that we are hostile to knowledge.The lack of basic knowledge displayed by so many of us is not a reflection of our collective disregard of learning , but rather the consequence of our endless curiosity.We are like those people who can't find anything because they can't throw anything out.We have a cluttered mind-scape.We are bombarded with new often complex information daily. Geopolitics ,science,medicine,technology all produce information deemed important to us on a regular basis.Our news services don't help matters either.Talk about clutter!.Celebrities have their personalities dissected and we are asked to give this information equal billing with the news from Iraq. Cultural trends erupt and evaporate in a years time.Now even the earth and her climate require us to learn new things and adjust our thinking.Reflection and imagination are considered luxuries,and perhaps archaic in a time when computer graphics and philosophical fads have replaced the mind's eye and questions that refuse to burp up comfortable or comforting answers.We choose mind-less diversions not because we reject knowledge but because we have been overfed .We instinctively seek to let our minds rest in the banal landscape that technology can offer us.It seems understandable too that people don't know much about geography.When there is something happening in the wider world the news agencies are always kind enough to add graphics, including maps to their coverage.It reminds me of spell check which has helped many people ,including myself rise above their basic ignorance of how to spell a given word.Our apathy is not the result of ignorance but is a defense against the weight of the world's troubles which when paraded before us in an endless loop reinforces our own sense of helplessness in the face of so much that challenges us on so may fronts.We are not stupid or disinterested .We are distracted by too much information and overwhelmed by what we know
    Academics

    Dear Mr. Moyers,
    This week's broadcast was as excellent as always but I was disappointed that you did not welcome us to the Journal as you normally do. There's something very comforting about your normal greeting and I missed it, sir.

    I have often reflected how this great nation has squandered its pre-eminence through diversions from its purpose, how ignorance and chauvinism have combined to force a reflexive anti-intellectualism to the surface in our national debate. In my lifetime of 53 years, America has turned away from greatness to self-indulgence.

    Nowhere is this new "No-Nothingism" more clear than in the debate of fundamentalist Christian ideology against the clearly chiseled tenets of science. Jacoby is at her best when she delineates the way magic thinking (also known as "Wishful Thinking") has taken over in the public schools, with so-called "Intelligent Design" being uncritically accepted as co-equal with evolution in many school systems across the land. Evolution is denigrated as "only a theory" -- showing the No-Nothings' confusion between a scientifically validated theory and a tentative hypothesis, reflecting complete ignorance of the scientific method. My girlfriend (a degreed research chemist) and I (a degreed historian) shake our heads in disbelief as we watch this debate evolve, and see a woman's right to choose nibbled away until abortion is once again available only to the wealthy. Can a return to coat-hanger abortions be far behind? Do the ideologues who have remorselessly forced this agenda care?

    The answer is no. They don't care about the issue or its victims; the issue has been only a means to power for them; and the arbitrary power wielded by the Bush Administration has been a measure of just how frightening ignorance unleashed can be. We have seen just how empty this ideology is as every organ of American government and economy has been turned to serve unfathomed greed, undermining principle and accountability at every turn for the sake of fast profits for the top 1% (as dramatized in the excellent piece on the national debt in the same program.)

    But the blame spreads far beyond the so-called "Christian right." Congress, our local school boards, and the brain-dead corporate media are all to blame. In the end, the American people (supine before the boob-tube, remote control in hand) get the government and education system they deserve -- that they are ready to settle for. My father (lifelong economics and history teacher in the private and public school systems, and strong patriot) must be thrashing in his grave to see the ideals he labored so long for, dishonored and dismissed with a careless yawn. It is certain, if we continue in the present course, historians of the future will shake their heads at how America had such an opportunity for greatness yet deliberately, heedlessly chucked it away.

    The missing link in recent US thinking is our inability to articulate the difference between values (based on beliefs) and ethics (based on reason). We can do both, but they are not the same and values cannot replace ethics. Ethics - due process, rule of law, equal rights, fair play - must trump values when values conflict. That's the heart of the Enlightenment, and hopefully we are steering back onto an enlightened course of supporting civil ethics above personal values when they conflict.

    Bill,
    I enjoyed the interview with Susan Jacoby but was somewhat surprised by her comments regarding the shortcomings of education in the united states today. While she spoke at great length about what high school and college students don't know and can't do, she failed to examine the root causes of these problems. Her indictments against education- without any examination of the causes or offering possible solutions- seemed to contradict her entire message concerning the value of reason in solving our problems.
    p.s.
    The book which I would like to recommend to the next president is Peace and Education by Maria Montessori. The book offers many remarkable insights concerning the role of education in creating a society capable of realizing mankind's highest calling- peace.
    Thanks.

    I agree there is a crisis of memory in America. More like amnesia. For example, have we forgotten what happened in Florida in 2000?

    I thought we decided in 2000 we weren't going to let anyone steal any more Presidential elections in Florida.

    Clinton's comment: ``Both Michigan and Florida should count because these are two states we have to carry,'' Clinton said. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=afMu2IHmjtdo&refer=home

    The logic of Clinton’s statement is brazen, disappointing and reflective of her campaign. It’s fine to break all the rules in a major way when needed to win, she is saying.

    Florida and Michigan broke the rules of the Democratic Party. They scheduled their primaries earlier than allowed. As a result, their results were disqualified. The Democratic nominees were told not to campaign there. They were told Florida wouldn't count. They didn't campaign there. This was a big deal.

    Unlike Clinton, Obama and Edwards followed the rules. Obama and Edwards did not campaign in those states. Obama and Edwards even took their names off the ballots in Michigan.

    Now Clinton apparently is willing to swing low to garner more votes to bolster her waining campaign. Her tactic is in direct defiance of the Democratic Party, which disqualified the results in these Florida and Michigan.

    This is not the stuff of leadership. Hillary Clinton has tried a lot of desperate things in this campaign, like the tearing up, fearmongering, and race-baiting statements in New Hampshire when she was on the rocks. Using her ex-President husband as her hit man. And all the rest. It’s no wonder that the Democratic Party, other Democratic politicians, and frequently Democratic officials in Bill Clinton’s Administration did not do well and Bill's legacy was the Republicans claiming both houses of Congress and the Executive.

    In contrast, Obama does more than obey the rules, which for him are a floor, not a ceiling. In a major example, he does not take money directly from lobbyists or corporations. Clinton on the other hand has taken lots of money from special interests while claiming, amazingly, the money won't affect her.

    Bush, Clinton, Bush steals Florida, Clinton tries to steal Florida. This is not a smear. None of my comments about Clinton are. They are the facts.

    I enjoyed the Susan Jacoby interview but more than that I am completly blown away by all the outstanding and insightful comments from all you "folks". Just by reading the differing views gives me hope that all is not lost. Intelligent and clearly articulated without the ever present name calling and mud slinging. Whether or not one agrees with some of the opinions, overall, the scope and "collective soul" of this blog is a rare and unusually intelligent respite from the shout and scream sites found on the internet. I enjoyed reading each point of view and not only how you feel but what I find even better is how intelligent articulate and passionate people think. Kudos to one and all.
    As for the points that Ms Jacoby talked about I concur completely. As each of us has watched helplessly as this country is systematically "dumbed down" I view it as if we Americans are the "decendents/heirs" of an extremly wealthy, old monied, family where we were born into very privledged and filthy rich family. Spoiled beyond measure, we are pampered,protected and brought up to expect and believe we are "better" and "more deserving" than others. In fact others are there only to serve us and cater to our every whim and fancy. We children are lazy, ignorant and totally uncurious about the people, places and world around us, totally undisciplined with zero moral compass to guide us thru our lifes. We practice the religion of abject consummerism and pray to the God of Instant Gratification. We chant buy, consume, use and use and use.
    So far removed and alien are we from the work ethic and extreme sacrifices made by our forefathers who came before us which allowed us to live the privledged life we lead today. We live only to spend and consume. For the most part we can only communicate with each other in 2 minute sound bites that are crafted with catchy jingles and buzz words to massage our gargantuam ego. We judge others solely on what we percieve others can do for us right now, right here. We labor under the illusion of the life we lead is "earned" and ours is an "examined life". We insist that we "deserve" because of who we are and where we live. We judge others not by their character and intelligence but by their zip codes and all their many possessions. We for the most part seem almost completley unaware of our envirionment and our impact on it. When logic or intelligence is brought to bear on any subject at hand we "spoiled kids" retreat into a well rehersed tantrum of belittling and ridiculing those opposing us with name calling and invoking our ignorance and wealth to demean and obscure the issue at hand. Money can buy a whole bunch of things but intelligence, wisdom, and compassion are not bought or sold but earned thru dilligence and hard work and an innate curiousity about and a dedication to the study and exploration of the infinite and boundless joys and mysteries of being a human being.

    I enjoyed the discussion with Susan Jacoby but disaggree with her statement that Supreme Court Justices are required to interpret the Constitution. As I've seen in other posts,no where in the Constitution does it mention interpretation as a function of the Supreme Court. To paraphrase; the judicial power is given to the Supreme Court and to the lower courts and this power is extended to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States, and its treaties. The question before the court is whether the case violates the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Law, or its treaties. The Constitution is the guide to be used to judge the case. The case is being translated into Constitution language, it's being interpreted not the Constitution. If I'm translating from French to English, I'm interpreting the french not the English. I'm using English to explain French. The US Supreme Court uses the Constitution to explain the case before it. This is a problem larger than just semantics because it's an error in thinking that has severe repercussions. For example; Thou shall not kill is a fundamental. violent acts in reality can be judged by this without interpretion of the fundamental precept. What needs to be interpreted in relation to it is our behavior. When I'm approached by someone who wants to kill me, if I act in accordance to the principal, thou shall not kill, I would try to stop the killing without killing. If I interpret "thou shall not kill", to mean I can kill in self defense then I no longer abide by the principal; I kill the person I believe is going to kill me. The basic fundamental laws can not be interpreted without loosing their potency. We as public servants, who swear by the Constitution, or just citizens, must follow and defend the Constitution. Like any ground rules to any game, individuals don't hash out interpretations of the rules, they just follow them in order to play the game. We have a President and Vice President who feel licensed to interpret their powers and the Constitution at their whim. If the Justices can, why not them? It's been a commonly accepted error spreading like a cancer through government.

    Thanks so much for the Jacoby interview. I'm eager to read her book. As a retired teacher I devoted much of my time to helping students develop INFORMED opinions in a world where merely having and expressing an opinion seemed enough for most folks. I congratulate her for coming forward and exposing the weaknesses in our educational system that must bear some of the blame, along with the politics as commercial advertizing movement, for the erosion of American memory and judgment that has given us a President whose election can only be explained by a lowering of standards

    Noslenca gave an excellent analysis of the issue of ignorance in this country.

    I have a bookshelf full of the Harvard Classics which were willed to me by my aunt. They are old but I see them as a thing of great beauty.Unfortunately, I do not have children and would, I am afraid, be looked at quizzically if I offered to leave them to someone in the next generation.

    It shows one how much things have changed. Who would now ever want to read Virgil's Aeneid, Plato's Republic, Darwin's Origin of Species or the entire works of William Shakespeare? Darned if I know.

    First Susan Jacoby says that evaluation is subject to proof but no one has actually tested it also she only highlights things in the Bible that don't seem logical but she doesn't say anything about all life coming from goo even thought THAT HAS been proven untrue

    I greatly enjoyed Mr. Moyers' interview with Ms. Jacoby. As a public high school teacher in rural southwest Missouri, I'm confronted every day with what Ms. Jacoby has aptly described as "an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge." I think a lot of people would be astounded at just how ignorant, insular, and resistant to academic knowledge today's youth culture can be. And of course the kids are, by and large, just exhibiting tendencies they've gained from adults and the wider culture at large. It's not that they're willfully stupid or unpleasant. By and large they're pleasant and likable. But that doesn't change the facct that they're caught in a backwater of distraction and ignorance in the form of an all-pervasive pop culture that is mostly hostile to intellectual knowledge. The whole thing is frighteningly reminiscent of something right out of Huxley's Brave New World or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

    The schools aren't to blame. Neither are politicians or the media. It's not individual institutions or segments of society but the culture as a whole, the basic zeitgeist, that is at fault. We have collectively embraced and fostered a consumerist way of life that trivializes historical memory and intellectual pursuits. By any former standard we have dumbed ourselves down into the equivalent of the slack-jawed zombies who now proliferate throughout entertainment culture.

    So I very much appreciate Ms. Jacoby's incisive and spirited take on this trend. But I also can't help doubting that it will have much effect, since the undertow of dumbing-down-ness that she identifies is actively working against widespread responsiveness to such critiques. It's a big, self-enhancing mess.

    How is it that the U.S. has the most highly "educated" population in its history, yet, in terms of civics, science and general knowledge are so ignorant? Let me count the ways:

    1. Parents: How many homes have few books and no bookshelves? Many parents splurge on video games, cell phones, iPods, televisions, computers and other electronic gadgets for their kids. We willingly spend hundreds of dollars each year to indulge kids with the newest fads in clothing, and athletic activities. Few parents seem willing to make the same financial sacrifice to buy their kids a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, globe, dictionary and thesaurus. How many parents reinforce civics education at home by discussing issues facing us as a society? Do we assume that kids are too dumb to learn about those issues? Or do we fear turning kids into mini-adults? How many parents even have the time to explore those issues for their own knowledge?

    2. How we view education: It's not about knowledge for knowledge's sake. It's about socialization and credentialing - getting the diploma that hopefully serves as the ticket to an entry-level job. This is what educational "relevance" has done for us. It has become about acquiring a body of knowledge relevent to a specific profession without concern for knowledge outside that field. We emphasize the teaching and learning of skills, not critical thinking. That is what the business community wants - trained worker bees, not thinkers. Thinkers are too difficult to control and manipulate.

    3. Longer hours on the job mean less time to spend pursuing knowledge on one's own. Thanks, Corporate America!

    4. Mass media: Mainstream broadcast outlets are mandated by a prevailing wisdom to report news stories in 2-minute segments - no matter how complex the story. Broadcasters in particular are driven by entertainment values. The circus surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith dovetails nicely with those values. Discussing the complexities of the war in Iraq or the federal budget is viewed by media insiders as akin to watching paint dry. There is also the added feature of "hidden agendas" to consider. Print media is not immune to criticism. For budgetary reasons, they, like their broadcast brethren, have become focused on entertainment. News reporting requires a financial investment in reporters and long hours spent on investigation.

    4. A longstanding anti-intellectual streak within American society.

    5. The thinking among a minority that knowledge is somehow contrary to religious belief.

    Just my observations.

    Sounding the compelling alarm of anti-intellectualism, Jacoby has correctly identified a recent troubling opinionated trend towards mediocrity within American Politics. Slowly, we have lowered the bar, standards, for our political leaders – our president should be someone we’d want to have a beer with after work – and in doing so, trivialized the importance of the office and its policy effects on our citizenry, other states, and the world. However, the question you have to ask yourself is would you want your heart surgeon to be a good ole boy that drove a pickup, or would you like to have one who graduated in the top of his or her class, stayed well informed on the most recent medical procedures, and had the least number of patients loss due to complications during surgery? By lowering the bar for our political leaders, we send a clear message to our citizenry – being mediocre is ok. Since the pursuit of excellence is now viewed as passé and elitist in nature, it is often frowned upon because it highlights the natural intellectual inequalities that may exist in any given classroom. As a result, those who learn at a faster rate often become bored, and those who need assistance are overlooked because being mediocre – meeting the lowered standard - is now deemed acceptable.

    Personally, I taught Civics to sixth, seventh, and eight graders for a year in a private Catholic middle school, and what I observed is that the students were enthusiastic about the subject matter when you related it to their own lives and their personal experiences. Additionally, the students, who mastered the subject matter at a faster pace, had to be challenged by conferring the status of mentor upon them and assigning them a protégé who they were responsible for teaching. In doing so, they no longer became bored with the subject, gained a greater appreciation for teaching, and assisted those who were having difficulty understanding the subject’s underlying principles. Additionally, this exercise was an excellent lesson in civic responsibility for the student teachers, mentors, because they actively aided their fellow citizens by volunteering their time and talents in assisting them achieve a higher standard of excellence in the subject area of Civics. Ideally, any implementation of a student mentoring system would award its participants with monetary scholarships in an attempt to defray the rising costs of attending private school, or college, but since there were no funds available, the mentors had to take solace in the fact that they had done their civic duty and assisted their fellow citizens.

    Regarding the current political culture of ignorance, Politicus Ignorantia, which was fostered by the conservative media via its repression of criticism of the present administration, I am reminded of that chilling Orwellian phrase: “Ignorance is Strength”. By systematically eliminating, discrediting, or attacking any discordant voices, the only voices left in the political discourse were those in harmony with the administration’s chorus of ignorance. And, with uniformity of political will, there is immense political power. Does this phrase sound eerily familiar, “War is Peace”? By waging war over there, we insure peace over here. Or better yet, “Freedom is Slavery”, being free from government wiretaps will allow terrorist free license to attack you at will, and ultimately result in you becoming enslaved by fear. At any rate, one cannot deny the effectiveness of Rove’s Thought Police on the process of critical thinking within the body politic.

    I was utterly amazed that in a presentation dealing with the historical, geographic and cultural ignorance of the American people — much of which I agreed with — Susan Jacoby made a major historical boner of her own. She said, "For example, what the right-wing says about judges is — our unelected judges are overstepping their powers. They talk as if judges — judges have no right to interpret the Constitution. But that is what the unelected federal judiciary exactly was set up to do. It says so in the Constitution. But if you don’t know how could — oh, we — yeah, we don’t — be — in other words, people confuse the fact that they may not like certain judicial decisions with the right of judges to interpret the Constitution, indeed the duty of judges under our Constitution to interpret the Constitution. Now it’s used commonly."

    In fact, the right of the federal judiciary in general and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. It was first asserted by Chief Justice John Marshall in the 1803 opinion Marbury v. Madison (14 years after the ratification of the Constitution) and has become accepted by tradition and usage, but it is not in the Constitution itself. Indeed, your point of view about the Supreme Court and its power of judicial review is likely to turn on your overall politics: in the 1930's it was conservatives who were upholding the Supreme Court as the final bulwark for "true constitutionalism" against the New Deal, and liberals who were denouncing "activist judges" and seeking to add justices to the court in order to bend its opinions into a more liberal direction and greater deference to the executive and legislative branches — and if there's a Democratic President and Congress but many of their actions are being thrown out as unconstitutional by the court's current conservative majority, it may once again be the Right that is hailing judicial review and the Left denouncing "activist judges."

    Susan Jacoby was right on the money with media literacy arguments that are rarely heard on TV.

    My take on American education is based on my observations over the past 60 years. I went through the public education system in the 50s and early sixties. The objective of the educational system of that period was to provide each American with a general knowledge of the basic skills to navigate through life. People leaving public education were equipped to provide for themselves and contribute to the economic and cultural well being of this country.

    We had a required course called Civics; a course on the care and feeding of our system of government. My knowledge of the operation of our government came from that class so many decades ago. Sadly, it was eliminated from the public school curriculum many years ago.

    Pursuing an advanced education was strictly a personal decision that was left up to each person based on there unique ambition, initiative, and financial resources.

    Toward the end of my public education experience in the early 1960s, pressure was being brought to bear by teachers and administrators to promote a college education and it was being characterized as the difference between abject poverty and financial survival. High school curriculums changed from the goal of a good general education to one of a college preparatory nature. Public educators assumed that students would get the basics, once taught in public school, when they got to college. This was the beginning of a class based system that valued private certification of an elite minority of citizens over the benefits of public education. Eventually, government subsidies in the form of educational loan guarantees put a much greater emphasis on a university degree, as far as employers were concerned, which emphasized the class divide in this country by reducing economic opportunities to those without the appropriate university certification..

    Consider the facts today, only 25% of graduating high school seniors will be attending college, 75% of the public school graduates are facing a non-college career with inadequate public school training. Recent studies have found the college gap growing even larger due to the exploding cost of a university degree. Many students are rejecting a college degree as the number of White Collar jobs requiring a college degree dwindles through foreign outsourcing of those jobs and the fact that a college education is not really required in our so-called service economy. The government’s response to this problem is to flood the country with millions of unskilled foreign workers that would accelerate the demise of the middle class while elevating the financial status of that minority of degreed citizens. This is one of the reasons why Mayor Bloomberg says we are moving toward a third world economy!

    On earlier posting February 15, 2008 10:07 PM; several detailed were absent in regards to treaties. In making an informed and objective position I add to the record the following: In the Federalist papers, Federalist No 38, by Madison records that; Is it an objection against the new Constitution, that it empowers the Senate with the concurrence of the Executive to make treaties which are to be the law of the land.” Further, Federalist No, 69, 74 affirms the power of the Executive as the Commander in Chief, that; “He shall have Power, by and with the Advise and Consent of the Senate to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
    Thus, my earlier inference remains factual. Ms Jacoby, the people are intelligent enough and have the means to acquire knowledge, even though there seems to be a few using less intellect than others these days, all possess it, the implied question should be; Does the leadership have it, and are they willing to use it? Mr. Moyer the show was stimulating,thank you.

    I would like to emphasize to the readers of this blog that Mr. Moyers undoubtedly had to undermine the result of his poll, "Debunking 911 debunking" by David Ray Griffin. I am certain that Mr. Moyers is aware of the overwhelming evidence about 911, but had to couch the poll results to satisfy the network. Please read between the lines, and please read the book.

    great woman, Ms. Jacoby. I do have a related comment, somewhat more controversial perhaps. Here it is:RELICULOUS, RELIGIOULOUS!


    IT WAS DISAPPOINTING to hear Bill Maher mouth, on Larry King Live the other day, the Establishment line that religion was based on old Jewish fairy tales and fables. Because whether you realize it or not, that is exactly what the Establishment (E) wants us believe.

    There are three lines of thought here, one of them furiously discouraged. The first, most comfortable to the Establishment, is that God made the heavens and the earth starting Sunday at nine a.m. and ending Friday at five p.m. Strongly encouraged, especially by the religious branch of Government. The E has nothing to fear from them. They are harmless.

    The second line, which could also be called the laugh- or snicker line, proclaiming that religion is based on old Jewish fairy tales, etc., also gets the full nod. The E has nothing to fear from them either.

    However, he third line, proposed by those who think there may be more to it than either the first or the second line of thought, is the most feared by the Establishment, and therefore the strongly discouraged one. It is pursued by those curious individuals who, in spite of what they have heard one way or the other, open the Book themselves and realize that whoever wrote this stuff was not trying to entertain us with fables and nonsense for the sake of nonsense. They may deduce that the ridiculed “eating” stands for absorbing, into the brain, education about the universe, the laws of nature and particulars about our planet, and that the mysterious trees are symbols for areas of learning. And, also, that “eating” the wrong fruit was (and is) the arrogant wish to be rulers in the earth before the accurate knowledge needed for such a task had been absorbed. The result we see all around us: violence replaces the necessary wisdom, to hide the fact that our world rulers have no idea what the hell they are doing. (See also my blog: The Establishment of an Establishment).

    The brain is a complex instrument, probably the most sophisticated organ in the world and maybe the universe. As the body needs food to stay healthy, so does the brain. However, the brain may become poisoned, just like the stomach. Poison in the stomach may cause death, and so does poison in the brain. Processing harmful information interfered with Eve and Adam’s brain, causing them to loose their immortality.

    The poison in question? What was Jesus tempted with? World Power. He rejected the offer. Eve did not. Could the “fruit” offered to her have been anything else?

    The brain is a very individual organ. The only one who can make up your mind is you. Therefore, when one comes into contact with certain information, one’s free will can accept or reject it and act accordingly. Once the mind is made up, it is very difficult to change it, for better or worse. But it can be done. One may be committed for a lifetime to the violent ways of the world, but discover one day how destructive this is to the brain, causing a turnaround in thought. One may discover that the world one once loved is on its last legs and that a new world is on its way.

    There is heavy propaganda against the Book, because exposure to this kind of thinking is what the Establishment fears most. General acceptance of this line of thought would put it out of business. It would mean the end of their so cozy and profitable situation. Therefore the religious branch of government sees to it that the information in the “fables” is properly nonsensicallized, by way of a constant misinformation campaign.

    Organized Religion is not based on the Bible, Bill. It is, as you say, made up out of whole cloth. Not one particular religion, but all religion, as you also aptly mentioned. The Bible is the enemy, and needs to be neutralized and neutered on a daily basis. Life taken out, death put in. Religion is the deadliest force on the planet, because it deliberately hides the truth about the possibility of real immortality from us. Religion and the Establishment, indivisible under God. Which God they are really under is what the Jewish fables are trying to explain to us, right at the start of Genesis, hoping to open eyes and ears. Jesus, the most fervent anti-religionist ever lived, also pointed to the very same fables.

    The people who run the Establishment phut (new verb) with your mind. They are very good at confusion and obfuscation. A telling example of this is the way the words “earth” and “world” have become commingled. These two are, of course, not one and the same concept. One is a ball and the other is an abstract. When there is talk, by the anti-religious Jesus, of “the end of the world”, meaning the world he did not want to become a part of, their world, their Establishment, the E has seen fit to slowly change the meaning of the word “world” to that of “earth” (are there other worlds out there?), thereby giving the good-news (gospel) prediction a fearful meaning, insinuating that our planet stands in danger of being blown to smithereens by its very creator. This keeps us in fear and uncertainty, and that is of course where they want us. They may even suggest that they will try to protect us from such a fate, setting their scientists to work on the project. It has the added advantage that it creates an almost-loathing of a deity who would do that to our abode. Makes the Establishment look more human than the Creator.

    Well, them that believe in the Rapture (also made out of whole cloth), be at rest. It is not going to happen. I guarantee it.

    Words are powerful tools. Words mean something. By changing its meaning a word may be neutered or even killed altogether. Take the word “Faith”. It was made into a noun, while it is an adverb. One can have faith, but one cannot have “a faith”. Faith can be had in the outcome of a thing, like the end of this violent world, which would be welcomed by any thinking person. One cannot have “a faith” in something. The word has been properly neutered into a vague description of “religious sect”.

    Death is the Establishment’s favorite pastime. It is the Hallmark of Civilization. The Establishment makes “brave men and women in uniform” into heroes, and definitely so if they are killed. Then the religious branch jumps in and tells us the fallen have gone to (a non-existent) heaven. Anyone exposing the farce is epithetted (new verb) both unpatriotic and sacrilegious, which points up the inseparability of the “two”.

    The E wants us to keep the Book closed, and what better way to accomplish this than to ridicule its content? Don’t open it, folks. There is nothing in there for you. Look instead at our boob tube. We have Britney, we have accidental overdose of a popular young actor by prescription drugs, or, of you wish, some “accidental” demises by means of heroin and cocaine (forget that our broken system has anything to do with it); we have elections, complete with exciting delegate counts, we have steroid use by prominent ballplayers, we have our president assuring us almost daily that he is protecting us from any harm, be it by Al Qaeda or a storm from God. Forget about climate change; it is only the curious people’s way of saying we, the E, have failed.

    There are exceptions, of course. There is Stewart, Maher, Jacoby and others, little sane islands in a sea of inanity. But do they have enough curiosity?

    The sad part about all this? It’s not the U.S.A. It’s not Europe, it’s not Russia, or China, or Japan, or India. It is the established way we have been suckered into accepting a stupid world view, in which confusion, violence and even idiocy are seen as temporary situations which the E will rectify as soon as they have learned how.

    Reliculous? Religioulous? Certainly.

    Thank you for your time.

    Thank You Bill Moyers for your wonderful television journal. It is like a breath of fresh air to my mind. Your guests never fail to inform me and to expand my thinking.
    I am a new fan of Susan Jacoby and I intend to buy three of her books. "Half Jew", "Free Thinkers A History of American Secularism" and "The Age of American Unreason"
    Maybe it is my limited knowedge or my lack of ability to reason but I do not see how evolution conflicts with creation, except for the fact that the bible states God created earth in 7 days. What might be said and which I would agree with is that God created our world in evolutionary stages and that we are still evolving physically, mentally spiritually & emotionally. Except our emotional development is lagging way behind.

    I wish your show was a nightly show and I would love it if PBS aired more philosophical, scientific and free thinkers perspectives. Look at all the hundreds of tv stations we can choose from and yet I still thirst for t.v. programs like your.

    Why can't Television Stations like PBS dedicate their whole broadcasting to the intellectuals of the world. Now I do donate occasionally to PBS but with total dedication to programs like your I would donate more money. We now pay for cable tv and have lack luster choises, many people would gladly pay for an exclusive mind expanding
    television station.
    Thank you for giving me my intellectual stimuli, I never miss your show.
    As I listened to Susan Jacoby, I was in awe of her, with her intellectual command of the language and her knowledge of her subject matter. I have heard, that the people you admire, have something in them that you wish you had. I believe that is true, I wish I had Susan Jacoby's intellect. This is probably the same reason I admire you and your show...

    Ms Jacoby sounds like a Humanist to me so I shall say on her behalf to all; Be good and loving to each other!

    A Nation of Mediocrity will not stand!

    It is refreshing to see a television program as Bill Moyer's.

    Susan Jacoby has written about areas in our culture history which has been obscured for many years. Her well-researched previous book, Freethinkers, at least opened up a dialogue about the importance of secularism in the founding of this great nation. Most of this rich history has, of late, been revised to give the impression that the US Constitution, to give but one example, was the end-product of Judeo-Christian ethos, and not that equally rich history known as the Enlightenment.

    Unfortunately, and as Ms. Jacobson alluded to, anyone can say anything about any matter and be taken at face value without even been challenged. That's the problem. In order to give pretensions of being politically correct, we often err on the side of complacency, half-truths, and acceptance of the status-quo. An Orwellian, albeit capitalist society, if there ever was one!

    As I took pen to paper to write a commendable review of Mr. Moyers' interview with Ms.Jacobs, I found the review published by Ms. Rosen so exacting to whatever contribution I could make that I am re-posting it here lest some of your readers may have missed it. Indeed, most commendable.

    A reasonable woman: The interview of Susan Jacoby and the discussion about her book "The Age of American Unreason" was one of the most interesting in the Bill Moyers series. I believe the most serious issue our nation is facing is the utterly stunning mind numbing ignorance of our people. The film clip shown of American young people on a game show not knowing that the country Hungary exists at all or thinking that Europe is an entire country is staggering. The discussion illuminated that many in our country do not even know that there are nine justices on our own Supreme Court, still believe the earth is the center of the universe and that angels are truth made me both incredulous and want to cry. Not only should our people know there are nine justices on our highest court they should be able to name them and understand the political issues surrounding the Court's decisions. It it so serious because these are the people who elect those who would influence our country's policies. These are the people I entrust with my safety. These people are the present and the future of our country. I cannot fathom when presented with simple questions of geography, science or history how stunning the lack of knowledge is. How did this happen?

    I believe this ignorance is not only the fault of our educational system but is endemic in our history. There has been and is a thread of anti-intellectualism sewn within the fabric of our culture. Although our Founding Fathers were men of intellect, much of our historical dialog has catered to men who were not. Whether in the historical populism of an Andrew Jackson, the fiery sentiments of a William Jennings Bryan or, in modern times, the mind boggling cerebral and expressive incapability of a George W. Bush, there has been a large strain in American politics and populism which appeals to ignorance. It has run through the course of nearly our entire history.

    I almost cannot read the arguments touting creationism. It is like saying it is okay to think that spirits cause disease. Some may believe in the germ theory of infection but others think that a spirit causes infection so let's debate it. No, let's not debate it. Bacteria and viruses cause infection and spirits do not. Facts rule. The case should be closed but it is not.

    Evolution is the very foundation of science. It is NOT contextually debatable within belief of creationism. If we do not accept or understand its truth our ability to find cures for cancer, the nature of immunological resistance to infection and, indeed, to understand the origins of our species is fatally diminished. We will be relegated to a mindless prison forever mired in a Middle Age like philosophy when it was in the interest of the religious authority to keep mankind ignorant so their own power which married church and state could prevail.

    I believe nearly all the problems we face as a nation are etched in and can be traced to this mindless tyranny which does not allow reason to triumph. This is not only deadly for our country but for the entire world as one can see how man is stuck in belief systems which cannot be verified and which contain little truth. These beliefs and the lack of critical thinking of them are responsible for the divisions in our society and these beliefs are responsible for the ultimate massacring of millions. I hope everyone will find the time to read Susan Jacoby's book "The Age of American Unreason." Her views are rational, reasonable and prescient. I believe, they could save the world.

    Posted by: Natalie Rosen |


    while i greatly enjoyed this portion of the show
    (age of unreason) last night, i could not help but feel somewhat marginalized, if not only by the fact that i am 37 years old and fall into the category x-generation... a generation, amongst younger ones who sometimes are downgraded for falling short by what my husband and i would call codgerism. there is a great deal to be said about the importance of knowing where iraq, israel and uganda are on a map, and furthermore, how these countries affect us and their own unique infrastructures. however, to say that past generations sat around their radios with their fingers pointed at a map, following the events of the day, completely overlooks an important and obvious generalization: WHO was sitting around the radio then? surely not my predecessors, who were out picking peaches or cotton, or crowded into their one-room shack cooking a pot of soup out of the little food they had, just trying to survive one day to the next. certainly not my acestors who were lucky to even get to a second-grade education, that would include being derided and segregated for the unlucky fortune of being Hispanic or being a part of the lower class. shall i even address gender roles here and how women were certainly not encouraged in the 50's to be politically active or advance their careers.

    a question which was not addressed back to the author: why is america today seemingly uninformed? do we feel helpless? are we MORE informed in other areas of our lives? today we have a much great cross-section of educated society and we have a larger population, so how does the author account for this? shouldn't we be applauded as a society for addressing and respecting civil rights? for our society recognizing women as equals? (hillary clinton running for president would be unheard of in the 50's.) what strikes me deeply is how the author's viewpoints, tho i'm sure unintentional, partly grow out of a common malady i see in older people, and which affects relationships with their younger counterparts, a revisionist history in which people were happier, more informed, better behaved, more intelligent... instead of recognizing that where we are now is simply a "different" place. and OF COURSE we are! in fact, i think there is much to be said about how much more evolved, humanitarian, benevolent, outspoken, multifaceted and technologically savvy (i could list more)we are as a country, on all levels of our society. just last month, a friend of mine was able to email to me and many others, a letter for us to read and sign; this letter called for our president to address and support humanitarian relief in Darfur. i would very much like to see less elbow-nudging and head-nodding amongst the older generations, and instead, see them reach out across the age-gap to grow together with younger ones. we should inform and teach each other. this must include having a more well-rounded view which includes the many facets of who we truly are now as a country. it would also include asking more questions and listening.

    finally, there was another question not asked in response to the author's opinion that people were more informed back when: were people more informed of history, or simply more informed of what they were told? there is a grave difference. from my viewpoint, our generation is more likely to question and (is able) to search for information in many different formats. our friends and neighbors are not of one culture, but of many, which gives us a more balanced vantage from which to make choices. women and men sit at the same table and can share opinions, then make decisions together. within a keystroke, i can access foreign newspapers, news presses or find a speech given by a political activist almost anywhere. this is an amazing time. this is only the tip of the iceberg, as they say. and for that very reason, i will have to kindly disagree with the attitude that my generation or the world we live in now has less knowledge/information with which to make informed decisions in order to make change happen.

    It is refreshing to see this issue recognized and addressed. We are primarily conscious beings; our founders had credence in personal worth; and until about 30 years ago, we were on a course proving them to be correct.
    Perhaps blinded by the glamour of technology, we lost sight of our guide and destination. Now, some sit by the roadside, again hope death will bring salvation; while others wallow in facts, trying to find the way; failing to realize the visual impairment surrounds loss of personal identity; and thus become controlled by outside forces; by religious or secular authority; who likewise have become impaired by a limited material vision; with feet planted firmly on the ground; our ascent could come to an end.
    It was recognized by our ancestors that if this country is to be guided by 'the people'; personal education is a vital component to success. Public education, libraries, meetings to discuss political agenda--all were conducive toward conscious expansion,--a means to share knowledge, which is our means of growth.
    What we may have failed to recognize is that the physical and behavioral principles, their utilization in material and social innovations, with direction toward comfort and compatibility did not come from the knowledge of the era; but from the unknown,--from a place deep within the personal thought of someone.
    There has been a dramatic educational shift. Where until the sixties, focus was on personal character maturation through prayer to a God of love; on so-called 'higher ideals' as equality, compassion, freedom, peace, beauty, justice or personal worth. The movements in the sixties seem an epitome of this personal growth; an escape from the 'old world' mentality relating personal worth to physical power and material gain; the root of social injustice; and I believe ignorance, because to memorize and repeat what is known for individual gain is a function of the body machine, the intellect; but this information should never be considered absolute; only a pre-requisite to expansion; to escape from an illusion; to realize truth;--the REAL world, and human potential; which exists not in physical relections; but deep in personal thought.
    I believe Freud was incorrect in attibuting conscience to parental influence; that we have an inherent, a natural social conscience,--described in the words we call ideals, or the human spirit; words that defy intellectual definition. That Darwin's theory of evolution does not in any way explain our ascension; because it was not a physical, but a conscious evolution; with root being a change in perspective; evolved from an attitude change.
    I believe the ignorance,--the lack of knowledge is relative to a material education. When conformity was to find character strength through personal meditation, a compatible diversity emerged. Suggesting it is not the body,--not the physical mind formed by the body;--but the 'invisible person' within that is REAL; that respect for pesonal worth is the need.
    Instead of the creative 'beings' we are; we have been reduced to human machines; programmed to plug into a monstrous social machine; the world of 'buying and selling'.

    Brilliant show Bill!!

    So it is out that you have a mindset for critical thinking and good reasoning. How then can you not question the "Official Account" of 9/11/01?

    Thank you for mentioning David Ray Griffin, but he deserves better.

    Again, with the last election primaries hanging in the balance, the Journal focuses on another rollicking intellectual discussion instead of trying to expose the weapons of mass deception being used on the electorate now. Jacoby did manage to lump the Clinton Admin with the Bush Admin as incompetent at teaching Americans about the world, which surely made Karl Rove and the neocons chuckle with glee.

    If my memory serves me correctly, Bill Clinton was the first president in history to make a huge public tour of the African continent, the first to try and intervene with military force on behalf of a population there (in Somalia), the first to fire CIA employees who helped direct torture (after the Jennifer Harbury revelations), and the first to try and order the Pentagon to stop discriminating against lesbians and gays in the military. All that stimulated a lot of education.

    He didn't succeed at all in foreign affairs, thanks to the Pentagon and the CIA, who sabotauged every attempt just as they did with Carter. Like Carter in Iran, history has blamed Clinton for the failures, instead of the true perpetrators, which is a neat trick of the shadow government. (And Oswald shot Kennedy...) Many of Clinton's appointments, especially Madeline Albright as Sec. of State, were disastrous, it's true, and his wife voted to authorize force against Iraq, but then the Kennedys had their share of bad politics (the McCarthy witchhunt, Bay of Pigs, etc.) and we managed to forgive them. Why not the Clintons?

    Clinton has also helped teach philanthropy to CEOs and other wealthy Americans, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in nonprofits working in Africa, Asia, New Orleans and elsewhere. And no one ever gives him credit for that.

    Jacoby's criticism simply strikes me as more of the kneejerk, Pavlov response to the Clintons that Karl Rove and his friends in the consolidated media have instilled within the public conscience over the past two years. Their goal, which includes marketing this newcomer Obama as "the next JFK", is to stop another (and better prepared) Clinton Admin from taking office. After all, Bill and Hillary learned a lot in those eight years of being undercut by the powers behind the throne, and have a real shot at making progress in overhauling those institutions. Both are inherently good people who care about the world outside of themselves. They could retire and live a life of luxury. Instead, they continue to weather the constant pummeling.

    It's a tragedy for the whole world that progressives here have fallen for the bait that Rove has dangled before their war-weary eyes. Since they know nothing of Obama's actual history, it's easy to just make one up in their minds. And while they do this, our journalists say nothing.

    susan sees the rhetoric on the wall. I like the fact that you had susan on right after jean and scott. reminding me that statements of fact put together with statements of personal philosophy can be misleading. what is infered can be far from a possible truth.

    Words are so important. look at the success of having PR people pick and create what the president will say to people. Because the president doesn't write the words, he doesn't have an emotional attachment to them and so will deliver them with coached emotions, thereby creating the needed effect to mislead without thinking he is lying. they are not his words or his emotions, he is acting a part for an end result that is not of his own making.

    he can do it with sincere detachment.

    one of our greatest challenges in this country. the people who write the words are not the people who perform them in our media systems.

    I like talking to people face to face about their ideas, the sincereity or lack of it comes through.

    since we don't exchange information as much interpersonally but through the impersonal media, we can no longer use all our senses to help us in our search for the truth. we are hood winked and disoriented, overwhelmed with distractions and acting from this off balance sense of the world around us. we never seem to catch up to what is going on, there is always another distraction that quickly comes to disarm our inquirey.

    Excellent interview. One thing Susan said that particularly struck me was that we don't read books or go to hear people whose opinions we disagree with. That is a huge problem. Since I assume most Bill Moyers listeners are on the liberal side of things, perhaps someone could post a list of books written by conservatives that describe their world view. No polemicists welcome. I like to read David Brooks because he is thoughtful, even when I disagree. Surely there are other thoughtful conservatives that are worth reading.

    Excellent interview. One thing Susan said that particularly struck me was that we don't read books or go to hear people whose opinions we disagree with. That is a huge problem. Since I assume most Bill Moyers listeners are on the liberal side of things, perhaps someone could post a list of books written by conservatives that describe their world view. No polemicists welcome. I like to read David Brooks because he is thoughtful, even when I disagree. Surely there are other thoughtful conservatives that are worth reading.

    Wow! So many thoughtful comments about your Susan Jacoby interview. Bill, your artful skill of discovery interviewing is super. Some of Ms. Jacoby's comments seemed right on, then she would say something that was beyond left field--not in the ball park.
    She struck me as a verbal roman candle-something interesting comes out then something really different fires off in another direction.
    Did she refer to evolution as ape turned into man as a fact?
    As a southern born boy we understood that someone's folks were kin, cousins, family.
    In the military we understood a troop was an organized group of soldiers, a trooper was singular, & troops were soldiers that may not be organized as a unit at the time.
    Segration is wrong (racial) but what about u intalectyals & us normal people? How can a student have a 4.71 gpa on a 4.0 scale? Those parents & educators that understand THE SYSTEM have AP & Honor & IB & Dual Enrollment credits for their students & those that don't understand and\or care are happy with a passing grade. Is this segration? Try getting into a 4 yr. university with less than a 3.0 gpa.
    The "cares" from the "don't-give-a-hoot-in-a-hollows".
    If our educational system was good enough to put men on the moon & bring them home, then what was the need for change. Was it better to have students feel good about themselves or feel as achievers?
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob Fla.

    PS Why don't all the voters in the US rise up against the DNP & "Mean" Dean for what was done to Fla. & Mich. voters right to representative govt.? Wonder what Jacoby would say about this "issue"?

    I've been reading the book reviews, online discussions, the interview that Mr. Moyers conducted with the author, and the comments here.

    They all speak to the needs, the gaps, and the failures. But so far, I haven't seen this aspect addressed: the instillation of the self-directed love of learning.

    That's the essence of what I believe may have been lost to a significant degree. Having taught college undergraduates and health care providers of all stripes - from MD/PhD to high school drop-out - I noted that those who exhibit interest in the subject matter, spontaneously ask pertinent questions, participate in discussions, and apply the information - are the people who exhibit the highest degree of autonomy, of success, and of wisdom, regardless of academic credential.

    But one can only lead others to that fount. The individual must value learning enough to engage in it. The teacher can only make it seem appealing and attractive. It also requires the support of those significant in the person's life: parents, siblings, family, friends, teachers, coaches, role models, mentors.

    I remember the astounding "aha!" moment I had in the stacks of the library of the University of Akron as an eighth grader. My friend's parents worked at the University, and she had grown up among its offerings - friendly professors, engaged students, helpful librarians and the gems of the library collections. While she moved easily and confidently through the stacks, I moved haltingly, overwhelmed, timid, and unsure of my place among all of this knowledge. My first ever term paper - about the building of the transcontinental railroad - came to life when I discovered the fragile original copies of Harper's in the open stacks. No longer was the history "in the books". My world tilted a bit that day.

    Jacoby rattles the earth with her book, too. I hope that many feel its tremors and are moved to act.

    In viewing the glass half filled, I am very thankful that at the beginning of the program Bill Moyers announced the name of the book that was removed, due to concern that an "organized effort" was made to recommend it to the next US President, DEBUNKING 9/11 DEBUNKING

    What book can be more relevant in the AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON than one questioning what happened in New York City on September 11, 2001.

    The evidence is undeniable about an investigation cover-up, and unprecedented claims of steel-framed buildings collapsing from fire, while molten metal collected in pools with such horrendous consequences.

    Perhaps this program for American reasonableness will lead to Bill Moyers inviting David Ray Griffin on his program, and for a discussion on a NYC 9/11 Ballot Initiative for a real impartial and thorough investigation.

    Bill Moyers's PBS interview with Susan Jacoby this past Friday night - focusing on her latest book, The Age of American Unreason - produced some enlightening insight that seems to corroborate many points I also have been making about the "dumbing down" of culture and intellectual or cognitive achievement at virtually every level in the
    USA.

    I was particularly struck by the fact that Jacoby takes issue with the
    absurd usage of "troop" and "troops" to refer to individual soldiers - an
    error I have been irritated by for years - and for pretty much the same
    reason:

    ==
    Troops used to be a term reserved only as a collective noun. Like would
    say, "Allied troops have landed at Normandy." Troops meant a massive
    military operation. We never talked about a soldier who was killed in
    action as a troop. We don't lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown
    Troop. We lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now I think
    that kind of euphemistic language-- it's very important when you talk about
    troops it in a way takes the individuality away.
    ==

    This is the first time that I have observed any public figure explicitly call
    attention to this widespread misusage - much less provide analysis of it.
    Turning an individual soldier into a "troop" fits into a pattern of spreading
    cultural and poltical Newspeak where...

    * civilian casualties in military actions have become "collateral damage"...

    * prisoners have become "detainees"...

    * you no longer get imprisoned, you get "detained"...

    * torture has become "enhanced interrogation"...

    * dead PERSONS have become just "fatalities"...

    * a person who has sexual relations with another below an arbitrary legally
    defined age suddenly is branded a "sexual predator"...

    * problems have apparently disappeared - instead, there are "issues"...

    ...And the examples could continue on and on.

    These and other aspects of the "dumbing down" of cultural, social, and
    intellectual functioning and interaction, as Jacoby points out, are
    dangerous - particularly in view of the political cretinism this "dumbing
    down" is nurturing. In my own view, it is exhibited in a wide range of
    attitudes, practices, and behaviors, from the de facto jettisoning of proper
    grammar, to the sloppy misinformation provided by journalists, to the
    widespread deployment of Newspeak (examples above), and to outright
    misrepresentations and even aggressively intentional lying and deception
    by "mainstream" political leaders. Possibly worse than these
    transgressions themselves is the widespread tolerance of them by the
    public - even otherwise "decent-minded" people.

    While there is much in Jacoby's political perspective that I disagree with (e.g., her eulogizing of FDR), Jacoby's warnings on cultural "dumbing down" are worth heeding, and certainly worth taking seriously.

    LH
    nawdry(at)bga.com

    A reasonable woman: The interview of Susan Jacoby and the discussion about her book "The Age of American Unreason" was one of the most interesting in the Bill Moyers series. I believe the most serious issue our nation is facing is the utterly stunning mind numbing ignorance of our people. The film clip shown of American young people on a game show not knowing that the country Hungary exists at all or thinking that Europe is an entire country is staggering. The discussion illuminated that many in our country do not even know that there are nine justices on our own Supreme Court, still believe the earth is the center of the universe and that angels are truth made me both incredulous and want to cry. Not only should our people know there are nine justices on our highest court they should be able to name them and understand the political issues surrounding the Court's decisions. It it so serious because these are the people who elect those who would influence our country's policies. These are the people I entrust with my safety. These people are the present and the future of our country. I cannot fathom when presented with simple questions of geography, science or history how stunning the lack of knowledge is. How did this happen?

    I believe this ignorance is not only the fault of our educational system but is endemic in our history. There has been and is a thread of anti-intellectualism sewn within the fabric of our culture. Although our Founding Fathers were men of intellect, much of our historical dialog has catered to men who were not. Whether in the historical populism of an Andrew Jackson, the fiery sentiments of a William Jennings Bryan or, in modern times, the mind boggling cerebral and expressive incapability of a George W. Bush, there has been a large strain in American politics and populism which appeals to ignorance. It has run through the course of nearly our entire history.

    I almost cannot read the arguments touting creationism. It is like saying it is okay to think that spirits cause disease. Some may believe in the germ theory of infection but others think that a spirit causes infection so let's debate it. No, let's not debate it. Bacteria and viruses cause infection and spirits do not. Facts rule. The case should be closed but it is not.

    Evolution is the very foundation of science. It is NOT contextually debatable within belief of creationism. If we do not accept or understand its truth our ability to find cures for cancer, the nature of immunological resistance to infection and, indeed, to understand the origins of our species is fatally diminished. We will be relegated to a mindless prison forever mired in a Middle Age like philosophy when it was in the interest of the religious authority to keep mankind ignorant so their own power which married church and state could prevail.

    I believe nearly all the problems we face as a nation are etched in and can be traced to this mindless tyranny which does not allow reason to triumph. This is not only deadly for our country but for the entire world as one can see how man is stuck in belief systems which cannot be verified and which contain little truth. These beliefs and the lack of critical thinking of them are responsible for the divisions in our society and these beliefs are responsible for the ultimate massacring of millions. I hope everyone will find the time to read Susan Jacoby's book "The Age of American Unreason." Her views are rational, reasonable and prescient. I believe, they could save the world.

    Not to sound too critical about the interview with Mrs. Jacoby, but if she decries the state of public ignorance about government affairs, then she is fair game. She should know that the Supreme Court has JUSTICES not judges; that Marbury v. Madison is the source of judicial interpretation of the Constitution; and that Congress does not ratify treaties, the Senate does.

    I always enjoy your program, keep up the good work.

    An educated populous is a dangerous populous to the power elite. To educate people about geography, history, and how they are linked, would definitely expose to the average man on the street where their tax money goes. As well as explain why every 10 yrs, or every president decides to have is little war in far away lands. To report on international affairs on the - usually sanitized U.S media-, would definitely shatter a lot of myths people swear by, hence create the need for soul-searching.

    Knowledge would give the impetus for citizens to demand change for the common good, to demand a much more egalitarian society, where there health care is available to everyone, where university education is free/affordable like many industrial countries, Scandinavia is a prime example.

    An uninformed, ignorant, over-scheduled populous is docile unable to think critically, or too tired to think, therefore easy to govern and lie to.

    Mr Moyers conversation with Ms Jacoby was predictable.
    Her book is on the mark. We as a society, a culture, are sorely ignorant.

    But "Intellectuals", right or left have a special ignorance all their own.
    They like to believe their own press.
    For example, a Stanford school theory is shunned (a religious term)by the Harvard School.
    They won't even listen to it. They know better.

    Religion has three components: The God, The Ethic and The Ritual.
    The God is that which one holds in highest esteem. The Ethic are the "teachings" about the God. And The Ritual are those practices to "pay homage" to the God.
    Mr Moyer has his own Gods.
    All atheists aka intellectuals do. They defend their Gods with their own understanding, knowledge and proof.

    The humor (either funny or sad) in this is that, if God exists, then the true "foolish" and ignorant are the intellectuals.

    I’m NOT uncommonly bright. I do NOT poses the resources to afford cable television, satellite radio, or for that matter, subscriptions to periodicals. I am NOT as well educated as many of the individuals, who post here, are.

    I am literate. I am a taxpayer. I am community-minded and serve on a municipal board. I have three productive college-educated children. I work hard, everyday. I struggle, everyday, to fit the demands of living middle-class (barely), into one, 24 hour period.

    I am starved for substantive, relevant and bite-sized, news—and, a forum for discussion (you guys are great, but Susan Jacoby is right—many of us are of the same persuasion). I want to be “educated.” Reading headlines on the internet and comments from bloggers, like you, is the best I can manage.

    I am wistful, but I cannot imagine, we will ever again be a citizenry engaged by any elected official in a fireside chat. The Great Uniter has not inspired my confidence, and has indeed, robbed me of civil liberties.

    It would be pitiful to allow the blind masses to be lead into forfeiting even more.

    Thank you Susan, you are right! I do complacently allow the media, politicians, pundits, corporations, and so many others—to do MY reasoning. It is just so convenient, when I haven’t the time, or the energy, for anything else. Thank you Bill for persevering to widen my horizons and for leaving a light on for me.


    Brilliant show, brilliant guest. As a teacher in the public schools (in one of the more competitive states) I have to join the conversation where the esteemed author points out that American public schools are failing at fighting ignorance. I would agree with her if she pointed out that American CULTURE is failing. Children cannot assimilate the complexity of conflicting perspectives on Constitutional rights, civil liberties, responsibilities of citizenship... if they do not first have the vocabulary, fundamental cognitive skills and basic grasp of the facts upon which higher-order thinking rests. In other words, you can't blame the teachers if, by "teachers" you mean education professionals. I remember when everyone was recognized as a teacher. 90% of everything I know today is based on fundamental knowledge I gained from my Grandmother at the kitchen table; or from my Grandfather at his workbench.
    This I know, because I am a "teacher" in a public "school." Almost all of the children I encounter in Middle School classrooms have no concept of governance; no view of history; no means of comprehending or even finding the immense responsibility of citizenship that they bear. We are screwed. Please, please, please blame not the schools. Our best hope, unfortunately, is an asteroid that will be steered our way and hit the reset button on Earths biology. Given the tack that civilization is on, that's our best hope. Keep the faith...

    truth is eternal and universal, and it exists apart from any (man/woman/sentient being). It is discovered not created and only the interpretation and presentation varies.

    Many of the ideas here were expressed by another woman, Ann Rand, previously in our history and what is said here has been said many times before.

    All well and good, but what to do? Washington D.C. floats above the nation like the city of Statos (first Star Trek series, elitist city floating in the clouds, spending the wealth created by the workers below with little or no concern for their well being except as it relates to the production of wealth) periodically these people come down from their exalted position to play their version of the lottery called: "rouse the rabble". This is the process that they use to decide leadership among their own group.

    But enough, anyone who thinks can see it, any one who does not think will never see it. Why take the time to state the ovious?

    Susan Jacoby was not quite 100% right on everything tonight. The Constitution does not give the Supreme Court the power to interpret the Constitution. The Supreme Court illegally, in probably the first case of judicial activism, gave itself that power in Marburg vs Jefferson in 1804. The other two branches of the government did not challenge the decision and it has been downhill from there for American jurisprudence. This one decision started in motion the politicalization of judges. Other more advanced democracies have specific Constitutional courts that have judges chosen by a proportional representation legislature. Many of the judges are scholars, not lawyers with political agendas and connections, and they do not serve for life.

    Love your show Bill.

    You've got, probably, the best news and info program on contemporary television.

    Y.M.

    As usual I enjoyed the show very much. I had a daughter who committed suicide in 1984. When it happened I wanted to go to the top of a mountain and scream "I screwed up." Then 20 years and 2 days later her mother died of lung cancer. We had been writing to each other for 13 months as we made amends for her to leave this world. When I first found out about the lung cancer all I could think of was all the times I tried to get her to quit smoking only to feel like a complete idiot for even trying. You'll never know how many times I've thought about my ignorance about forming and choosing who to be in relationships with which was never taught to me or others in this world. I mean how long have we been in existence and nobody teaches us how to relate or be in relationships.
    Tonight's show sure enter my mind because aren't we really in a relationship with government also just like any other relationship? We have so many broken families that simple things like self-esteem, self-love and self-confidence are not taught nor role modeled for children. Is it any wonder that 'ignorance' is part of our society? We don't even have enough common sense to teach the basics to our own children and they won't have it to teach theirs.

    Lao-tzu said: "People are difficult to govern because they have to much knowledge."

    Perhaps then their is a deeper and darker reason for our ignorance.

    =
    MJA

    "How sad that foolish beliefs that are childish and wishful thinking are held up to keep people moving down a suicidal path toward Fascism and ecological collapse. Neither George Bush nor any other politician truly believes that the Bible is literal truth. It is only a threatening fantasy used to control relatively powerless people.
    If you must agree that 2+2=5 under the threat of waterboarding then the truth is moot."

    Yes, such a terrible place, the US We're so oppressed. Maybe we need to throw a great big pity party for the poor oppressed Americans who suffer so much under the eeevil Nazi George Bush. Let's make sure to invite some North Korean peasants and maybe some Burmese monks to our party.

    I am a liberal- the far left in fact. I am relatively smart- I was Phi Beta Kappa and I have never gotten anything but an A in my science and math classes. I agree with almost everything that Jaocby said tonight but I am so turned off by the discussion of evolution- I almost turned the tv off. In my opinion the people who believe the theory of evolution, macroevolution that is (microevolution is unquestionably true), haven't read anything beyond their 9th grade text book and they have never heard the terms "Cambrian explosion" and "irreducible complexity". You can say what you want about the Genesis account of things, but with just a little bit of logic one can see that Darwinism is even a bigger fairy tale propagated by people who want to be genius who figured it all out. It you don't want me to believe in god you better come up with something better than that weak sauce.

    Finally! Someone said it, and said it out loud - in public, and on television. Even though her forum was directed to that small group of Americans (PBS viewers) for whom her comments don't fully apply, they are nonetheless the understanding minority. She hit the nail squarely on the head, and was spot-on with every single point she made. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am buying the book tomorrow, and will become a voice that insists that all read it. Yes, I can imagine a political canditate telling Americans that they are ignorant. I've been longing for one, hoping for one, and smart enough to know it will likely not happen anytime soon. But someone finally stated it openly, thank goodness.

    I must say that I am disgusted. Disgusted with the comments I have read here, disgusted with the emotions that have been brought up in my own soul when contemplating my experience tonight and even disgusted with viewpoints of the commentators of tonight’s show (even though I largely agree with the gist of their message).

    First, how can we win the “War in Iraq?” Sadam is gone, and yet fighting continues. Our national debt has increased by more than 30% since Katrina, and yet our own citizens are still living in toxic temporary housing. Nevertheless, I have yet to hear a description of how we can win this war.

    I played sports in school. In baseball, you round four bases to score. In football, you push the ball through the end zone. In track, you run through the tape first. But I can’t see, and none of our “leaders” have detailed to me how we will win in Iraq. If I understand correctly, what we are up against is a civil confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis that has existed for centuries—long before our own culture existed.

    I don’t pretend to know the roots of this ancient problem in Iraq or believe that I have the wisdom to offer a solution. However, nor should anyone else who has not lived within and can understand these ancient cultures. Consider this: how would we as Americans feel about outsiders who might have tried to infiltrate and force upon us a solution to the deeply dividing issues of our own civil war.

    Some things require the upheaval and, yes even violence, of civil war to bring peace to deeply divided peoples.

    Also, I am saddened by the apathy of the American public. However, that is not to say I don’t understand it. As an owner of a small company, I find myself so engrossed in my daily survival that I find I don’t have time to consider the incentive, ideals or veracity of my elected officials. I simply have to make a decision of the basic principles they eschew and hope for the best. If they don’t, what recourse do I have?

    My employees, unfortunately, have even less time. To claim that the bulk of America does not find things out for themselves because of apathy, stupidity or laziness is, in by belief, disingenuous. My experience is they simply do not have the time and, therefore, the energy to do anything different. I believe that the politicians know this and, in fact, count on it.

    Lastly, I am mostly disgusted with myself as this is first time I have taken the time to express my ideas in a forum such as this. Even though I don’t believe any good will come of this, I’m glad I took the time.

    In my humble opinon…

    I am amazed that Bill Moyers allowed so many glib statements by Susan Jacoby to go unchallenged.

    #1. It was not an ignorant, gullible citizenry that supported the invasion of Iraq. It was a populace that had seen its own military partition the airspace of Iraq for years (each time pilots risking their lives), while Saddam played rope a dope with the inspectors and gave large monetary rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

    Were we to presume the gasser of the Kurds would not be working on wmd? Given the size of Iraq, it must be gullible observers like Susan Jacoby who think that just because wmd have not been found, such absence of discovery is proof positive they are not there at this very moment.

    #2 Indeed our urban public schools are
    a mess, so Susan should offer specific
    actions she would have individuals
    take who are already maxed out with the demands of work and family. One thing she could have addressed while having the platform of Bill Moyers' show is how 'single moms' (no matter how heroic) have time to bring up their children so that they are ready for school. If Bill's show each week had to operate with only 50% staffing, would he get the same quality of show on the air each week? How would that work?

    #3 Without question the media are one of the major forces leading us to the abyss of ignorance. As an earlier post pointed out, even Bill Moyers confines himself to pretty agreeable guests. How about having Susan Jacoby on one more time with someone who can give other sides of reality than the one she presents. The first thing such a person would do would be to point out the well known fact that nearly all the 'mainstream media' are owned by a few
    corporations, run by a few wealthy men. Not only does the public have
    its input screened by the deplorable
    test "if it bleeds, it leads," but routinely
    some stories are headlined, and others buried. Ms Jacoby would want to articulate for us the norms and criteria by which every last event surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith was reported, while the effect of rising energy prices, paid for by artificially inflated home equity values (and the loans made thereon) went for months on end underinvestigated, and largely unreported.

    Having said all this, I agree with the basic theme of Susan Jacoby's book, and it has great value in terms of
    pointing out the abyss of ignorance in which American life is lived. No writer can cover everything. But it would be even more helpful if she had taken the trouble in valuable on air time to offer specific solutions to at least a few of these deeply systemic problems.

    Ms. Jacoby's thesis is very much to the point. except that American have always been ignorant about the world and their government.
    Religion was pushed by the government because of the fear of communism.
    Media reflects what the corporations want, a pliable people easily manipulated by their advertisements.
    Education used to be controlled by the religious clergy. Enlightenment was about the aristocrats sending the religious out to convert while they consolidated their power in Europe and then US. All education is just to train a willing slave to the corporatocracy.

    This is been this way from the beginning of civilization. Yet people still think they can win against these people.

    I don't consider myself an intellectually lazy person, having an undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, and some grad school experience.I try to keep myself well-informed. BUT I am no longer in the world of academia- and have to earn a living, feed my famly, do their laundry, clean my house(in the absence of hired help to cook, clean, do laundry, walk the dog, feed the cats, etc). And I do bemoan the fact that Americans(myself included) are often not as well-informed as they should be. But good grief- there are only so many hours left in the day to research issues, particularly when the mainstream media seeems to have an agenda of its own, and tends to feed us information of their own choosing. I am happy that people (notice I didn't say"folks" ) like Ms Jacoby are pointing out this problem on behalf of those of us who are running as fast as we can just to stay in the same place.

    Ms. Jacoby has some valid ideas, but her views come from distorted vision. "FOLKS" is a term of endearment, not a talking-down term of denigration. As far as "PREJUDICE" is concerned, it is the unavoidable effect of learning and not to be dispaired. The only unprejudiced people are true and absolute idiots. Knowledge prejudices.

    I notice that many posters are attacking Ms. Jacoby over the usage of the noun "troops" and the arogation of interpreting the Constitution and federal law by the Supreme Court. How all of you miss her point! Since we live in a consumptive economy that produces nothing but cultural and fashion fads, we have stopped being citizens and are, in fact, really, really dumb. We revel in dumbness because we think we can afford to be that way as long as we have the next best gizmo and we can feel good about ourselves.

    Curious ending to the interview- the comment that Jacoby's publishing date coincides with Darwin's birthday. The implication, I presume, that Darwin, the secular savior, is succeeded by contemporary torch-bearers like Jacoby. Really? No, critical thinking, free enquiry, the scientific method, etc. were not the product of secularists, nor do these concepts belong to their ilk today. Critical reasoning would have compelled Moyer to end the interview with a "thank you" and a smile, instead of a plug for a young theory with, still, no definite answer to the question about our origins. Another sad, sad, display by the left, but there is some redemption in that the "intellectual right" is naming these blunders as evidenced in previous comments.

    Will

    No suicide bombers before Irag? What about those who destroyed the World Trade Towers? Or does the intelligentsia forget all those terrorist attacks that happened prior to the invasion. I find Mr. Moyers hopelessly biased. By the way, could Mr Moyers or his guest point out Rusk County on a map:>) I love maps and countries and history, and love the great literature of the world, including the Bible. The history and lands are fascinating, and I love Irag as the land of the Chaldeans, The land of UR,and Abraham's birthplace,and Babylon where the Israelites were held in bondage. What history is there! and how sad the war.

    As a 4th grade teacher, I have often wondered why the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has no requirement for states to test students in social studies in the current standards-based educational reform movement. Congress mandated (after 9-11,Rockefeller, WVA sponsoring) that all US schools spend one September day each schol year studying the US Constitution. One day, one lesson.

    Social science standards aren't assessed since NCLB doesn't mandate that testing, and with high-stakes testing leading to punitive outcomes, some schools don't include social studies in the curriculum. What does that say about national policy -- are we ensuring the continuation of ignorance? Indeed, at low income schools which haven't made academic yearly progress, teachers are directed to teach only reading and math. Science and social studies are given no time in their classrooms. In whose interest is national education policy working?

    Thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Jacoby. Both agreed and disagreed with things that were said. Truth is the few things I disagreed with were things I really didn't understand. Most important she gave us much "food for thought". We are all responsible to have an open mind and be willing to learn. So basic. Regarding our education -- some are so quick to blame the system or the teachers. The problem starts in the home which may or may not be ideal. But that is where it begins.

    This interview gave me a great deal of pleasure. Many of you who are being hard on Susan Jacoby should realize that she is a capable philosopher but is not speaking with rigor here but in a familiar and accessable way. This does not mean she was entirely correct in her observations. Let me congratulate the early and often poster Max Kaehn (7:43pm) who observed how we should teach people to "sort out the truth from spin." All masters of this feat would be supra-competent citizens. Steven Weiss (9:52pm) is mistaken to assume the type of teachers we need are an Aristotelean elite. That is part of what turns people off from learning, and who can trust the gifted mind in an environment where it is an accessory serving the wealthy elites. Steven Jamer (9:54pm) may not be old enough to remember our golden age of education in the early 1960s when our masters were frightened by Sputnik and the H-bomb. I went from studying racist geography from a ten year old book in the 4th grade to studying Algebra and French in the 5th, abnd I was expected to know my continents, major rivers, countries and states at age 10. When there is a perceived need, a mandate and funding, motivation and optimism teachers and students can be turned loose to perform miracles of achievement. The insecurity of our oligarchy over Vietnam resistance substituted control for open education and it has gotten worse ever since.
    The truth is that the American people did not lose their memories and capabilities overnight, but that they were robbed of them by a glut of media crap, an insecure economy and finally an environment of fear. George Orwell saw the seeds of this nightmare and was able to describe it. Ms. Jacoby focuses on vocabulary in the media. The Bushes and others have borrowed freely from Nazi lingo: Homeland, New World Order, Troops and so on. This code language is a way of speaking to a racist identity movement without being explicit, and let's face it TV preachers use their liturgy for the same purpose: division and hate.
    Roosevelt, a man caught in the middle between elite Nazism at home and a hungry populace about to revolt resorted to being an honest teacher. (Never did he tell the whole story of financial pirates and war profiteers.)
    The media apparatus is now so powerful with druglike tools of TV and Internet aspects that it determines public intellectual demand with the products it produces. It is worse than censorship by glut in that it poisons lives and minds without remorse. (I hate the insulting shows I see for little children, even on PBS. We should all be reading Dr. Suess to them.) Why can't TV be culturally educational like Ed Murrow hoped? It's plain to see the wealthy class can't deal with the consequences.

    How sad that Bill Moyers is crapping his pants worrying what would happen if he fairly addressed Debunking 9/11 Debunking (by Rev. David Ray Griffin) or Plan B 3.0 (by Lester Brown: Just the kind of teachers we desperately need now). It's not hard to keep little children from knowing that there are 9 Supreme Court Justices, or to keep young couples ignorant of how to calculate interest rates in this nightmare environment. How sad that foolish beliefs that are childish and wishful thinking are held up to keep people moving down a suicidal path toward Fascism and ecological collapse. Neither George Bush nor any other politician truly believes that the Bible is literal truth. It is only a threatening fantasy used to control relatively powerless people.
    If you must agree that 2+2=5 under the threat of waterboarding then the truth is moot. I think the Clintons f---ed up universal healthcare at the behest of the powers that be, and that it will happen again unless people are empowered to resist.
    We would be better off in a nineteenth century world with Robert Ingersol, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain and John Dewey on circuit because our oppressors did not possess such overwhelming power then and there was a better chance to resist. That's why Moyers' fight to inform us on media concentration, net neutrality and surveillance is so vital. I only wish we could mobilize to give him the support and power he needs to present more of the truth.
    If you are religious you must still agree that some mighty bad wrong things are threatening our freedoms and environment. Susan Jacoby and I are not trying to take away your religious freedom. All we are saying is that to fix these problems we must work together and think rationally. Daddio Bush, Pat Robertson or some other authoritarian creep would take your religion away before we would. They would give you a belief that wealth is Everything, and you must bow to IT, that God shows his approval through unpunished theivery. All money is really make-believe, just part of a nutty social contract with the rich. Why would an omnipotent Creator need such a trifle? Now that's logic.

    An interview worth noting. Hubert Humphrey once commented that the study of democracy begins in the home. If so, are not parents, or those acting in their place, the child's first teachers. Is not Civics Education as important a National Security issue as the current administration having access to the private phone messages of American citizens. Should not Civic Education begin at home. Teachers are required to teach a mandated curriculum that is generated from the state capitol. Many states, including the one I live in, have taken Civics Education as a separate and required part of the curriculum, out of the curriculum and so called "embedded" it in the history curriculum. This means that only a watered down version of "Civics Education" will reach the students. Too many citizens, unfortunately,
    Ms. Jacoby included, assume that the schools, not the state, mandate the curriculum. Teachers, properly trained, could do quite well at teaching about the part of the Constitution that deals with the Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary.

    Mr. Moyers you should press your guests to distinguish their comments as just that and not impinge a negative image on our already battered teachers.

    Excellent show as usual, Bill. I agree with most of what Ms. Jacoby had to say, and not because I already hold some of her opinions to begin with. I have believed that as a nation we have been "dumbed" down and certainly Ms. Jacoby didn't originate that term. Education and open mindedness may not go hand in hand, but education definitely expands ones way of thinking and visualizing the world. As to the comments made about the constitution, more than just discussing how our government interprets the constitution, is the importance of what we think of it as a document today. Certainly, many of us feel as if the government cares little for this document today, especially the current administration; as it has stacked the Supreme Court in one direction---much like FDR attempted to do during his years in office.
    I especially liked the comments concerning healthcare reform in this country as an example of how our government officials get the issues wrong, or if not wrong, at least out of touch with what is really going on.
    Again, great show, Bill!

    The post by H illustrates one of the problems with American education today: Many teachers simply are unable to write proper English. H refers to "Each" (singular) as "they" (plural), and repeats the error consistently in his/her post: singular noun followed by plural pronoun. And doesn't H know that you don't refer to a person ("student" in her post) as "that" but as "who"? Finally, I have to wonder how long H has been working in a school system if he/she refers to a "high school principle's office." jvr

    Mr. McKinley's comment on Judicial Review was excellent.

    Ms. Jacoby's impression that we Americans are fairly ignorant is unfortunately borne out by my own experience: I once had to explain to coworkers that the President neither passes laws nor allocates funds for federal programs. Apparently "civics" is no longer taught in the schools. And it is certainly true that geography has not been taught for about fifty years.

    On the other hand, I was quite exercised by Ms. Jacoby's statement that she did not really have much choice in doctors, because she was restricted by her "managed care network." In the first place, she can choose any doctor she pleases; the only issue is how much of the bill will be paid by her insurance company. Somehow I have the impression that Ms. Jacoby could afford to pay any doctor to whom she chose to go.

    Like so many near the top of the economic scale, Ms. Jacoby just doesn't seem to get it. I spent twenty years with no insurance coverage whatever; I guess that gave me complete freedom of choice in doctors. In fact, I took my son to a good doctor when he was ill; when my husband or I were ill, we lived with it unless it was so bad that we couldn't function. And of course the issue that really bothers me about this situation is that during the entire time that I had no health insurance, I was paying for the health insurance of every government employee, as well as for the health insurance of the employees of every company from which I purchased goods or services.

    I do not believe that it is always necessary to experience a situation in order to understand it; on the other hand, I think that Ms. Jacoby should consider the possibility that she may be as "ignorant" in some areas as are the rest of us.

    I believe that Susan Jacoby believes what she is saying, but I'm not sure she really knows what she's talking about. For example:

    "Uh, first of all, there are right-wing intellectuals. But one of the great successes of the intellectual right, is that they have succeeded brilliantly during the last 20 years at pinning the intellectual label solely on liberals so that a lot of people think that to be an intellectual means that you are a liberal alone. And one of the reasons that I think that right-wing intellectuals are so dangerous is they've been so clever at doing this. They've been much more clever than liberal intellectuals have been."

    So then, the right-wing intellectuals "pinned" intellectualism on liberals? I disagree; you could not read a newspaper that doesn't heap hagiographic praise on liberal intellectuals like Albert Gore by fawning liberal reporters. This notion that conservatives became so intellectual by pretending to be dumb is just laughable.

    Bill, I was disappointed that you did not challenge Susan Jacoby on her ignorance concerning the U.S. Constitution. One of the previous comments correctly notes that, contrary to Ms. Jacoby's statement, the Constitution does not provide that judges will interpret it. It was those "activist" justices in Marbury v. Madison who created the rule that the federal courts have the power to interpret the Constitution.
    In addition, how could even any educated high school student say that treaties have to be ratified "by Congress"? We all (including Ms. Jacoby) should have learned in high school that treaties are negotiated by the president but must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
    How can we put confidence in anything Ms. Jacoby says if she is so ignorant of these two concepts--especially when she is choosing to discuss them in terms of the ignorance of the public?
    AND WHERE WERE YOU, BILL MOYERS, WHEN SHE RECITED THESE ERRORS? YOU JUST SAT THERE AND NODDED YOUR HEAD IN AGREEMENT. jvr

    Need I remind any right wing degenerates out tehre taht there are redacted documents from the Reagan administration from the Iran-Contra hearings (where we sold WMDs to the Ayatollah not long after their hostage taking in order to fund the Contras so tehy could rape farmer's wives in nicaragua), and these documents show we supplied raw ingredients, instructions and aid to make chemical and biological weapons to use against the Iranians and when Saddam used them against Kurds, when he killed 100 or 200 thousand of the border dwellers, we covered for him and prevented the UN from investigating ors anctioning Iraq and saddam. So don't get all sweet and foggy-brained about who was complicit in the travesties in Iraq..look at your hero Reagan and his minions and handlers who descended into this current administration of the frat boy.

    As a previous poster indicated, "troops" refers to members of all of the services. One does not call a marine or an airman a soldier. The fact that she didn't get that obvious point and blamed the use of the word on some PR flack really casts doubt on her credibility. Do so-called intellectuals these days really know so little about the military? I found her comment about how the president should be the "educator-in-chief" to be odd as well. She's there complaining about the dumb Americans being ignorant of the constitution and then she comes up with that totally non-constitutional phrase. Also, Bill's comment about only listening to people who agree with you was hilarious. I thought he was making a joke about his own show, but then realized he was actually being serious which made it even funnier.

    In her interview Ms. Jacoby mentions the constitutional authority of Judges and repeatedly mentions that people need to read the constitution and inform themselves. I would be very interested if she could find for me, in the text of the constitution she claims to know, the authorities of Judicial review. I have actually read the constitution and see it nowhere.

    As a previous poster indicated, "troops" refers to members of all of the services. One does not call a marine or an airman a soldier. The fact that she didn't get that obvious point and blamed the use of the word on some PR flack really casts doubt on her credibility. Do so-called intellectuals these days really know so little about the military? I found her comment about how the president should be the "educator-in-chief" to be odd as well. She's there complaining about the dumb Americans being ignorant of the constitution and then she comes up with that totally non-constitutional phrase. Also, Bill's comment about only listening to people who agree with you was hilarious. I thought he was making a joke about his own show, but then realized he was actually being serious which made it even funnier.

    I just had the unpleasant experience of watching Bill Moyers's interview with Susan Jacoby. Often throughout the interview, Jacoby uses the terms "dumb" and "stupid" -- mostly to describe American culture. But, of course, "stupid" doesn't describe culture -- it describes people.

    At one point, Bill even corrects her use of the term "dumb", generously assuming that she means ignorance or lack of knowledge instead, not lack of intellectual capacity. However, I got the distinct impression -- from the sheer number of times she uses such terms and her condescending tone -- that she really thinks Americans are stupid, and that's a shame.

    The ironic part is, for being an expert on ignorance, Jacoby seems profoundly ignorant about why Americans think or believe as they do. In my opinion, it's not enough to describe the gap between what people know and what they ought to know. You need some human warmth, some sympathy for those who lack the knowledge that could help them live fuller lives. Then again, I'm just an ignorant American -- spouting off about an author's ideas without having read her book. Let's just say this interview didn't make me want to run out and buy it.

    I liked the gist of Ms. Jacoby's comments and the suggestion that we should all be better informed citizens.

    But when Susan Jacoby derided conservative complaints that federal judges interpret the U.S. Constitution as being uninformed - I believe she suggested the constitution gives federal judges the role of interpreting the constitution and that we as citizens should know what the constition says - her comments were at best misleading.

    The doctrine of judicial interpretation is not expressly stated in the constitution. The concept of judicial review became law in 1803 when Justice John Marshall wrote an opinion interpreting the constitution to mean that the U.S. Supreme Court was the final arbiter of the meaning of the constitution. This is one of those Supreme Court decisions where we must go along with the "because I said so" approach, or risk almost unacceptable tension in the form of a showdown between branches of government. The opinion is well worded, but the only reason it works is because the court's actions went relatively unopposed. Other institutional solutions to the the problem of needing to interpret the constitution were and are available, and we might acknowledge there is something undemocratic about the fact that our elected representatives can be overruled by 5 out of 9 appointed judges (many say we need the court to protect against the oppression of the majority). The scope of the power created (some say usurped) by J. Marshall in Marbury v. Madison has been debated since the early 1800's.

    In other words, the Supreme Court gave itself this important power early in the development of the republic, and no other branch of government or citizen seriously opposed its action.

    I enjoyed your interview of Ms. Jacoby and agree that we should all avoid oversimplifying.

    Knowing what the constitution says would not tell a U.S. citizen that federal judges should interpret the constitution - because it does not say that.

    In the interest of being well-informed, when speaking of a federal judge's power to interpret the U.S. Constitution under the doctrine of Judicial Review, one should note that it is an implied power developed from case law. The constitution does not refer to it anywhere.

    I had to smile when Bill asked Susan Jacoby tonight why so many people are reluctant to try to learn from people with whom they disagree. Bill's own show features almost entirely people who agree with him; he rarely invites guests with opinions opposed to his own. The program rarely features debate; it mostly features guests agreeing with Bill -- mutual self-congratulation. Ironically, Susan Jacoby herself is a perfect example of such a guest!

    "It's only a theory. You don't have to believe every one." These words were spoken during a heated debate during a genetics unit in one of my biology classes approximately two years ago. For the most part the class broke into two camps (there was a third camp that chose not to participate and observed instead)- those who agreed with the statement and those that didn't. As a science teacher I was wounded that so many of the students failed to understand what a theory was. Eventually the discussion included another comment along the lines of,...that's what I learned in church. This deepened the divide in the class and it seemed to me that it left a feeling of mutual finality to the discussion. Each would believe what they believed and that would simply be that. Educators are up against more than unruly students.

    What I found interesting in the Age of American Unreason segment was just how spot on Susan Jacoby was. I have not read her book, but her thesis that America has slid away from reason is one that I saw in school frequently.

    For instance, is it reasonable for an 8th grade student that reads 2-4 grade levels below their grade to be in science class? Should a student who cannot do the grade level math work be in science class? Is it reasonable for a student to have their IEP (Individualized Education Plan) state that they are allowed to miss school? Then that same student misses approximately 41% of the school year and is promoted to the next grade level? If they were capable of doing that grade level's work, why weren’t they in the higher grade to begin with? I sat in a high school principle's office and listened to a parent tell me high school is about self-esteem, period. Is that a reasonable sentiment? Don’t misconstrue this as teacher bashing. Teachers are arguably the single most underrated professionals around who are forced to serve multiple masters without any clear long range commitments, or support, from any of them.

    Based on my experiences I feel I have to agree with Susan Jacoby's analysis. I would be interested to learn more of what she has to say. She seems quite passionate about the topic.

    I greatly enjoyed the interview with Susan Jacoby. I agree with much of what was said. However, after laboring in a small public school for the past 25 years, I find the statement that "schools are failing" to be an over simplification, and I am beginning to take it as an insult. My colleagues and I are working to teach the kids who spent two hours a day watching TV and being read to for only 39 minutes a day as preschoolers. We try to teach people who do not want to learn what is being taught, who do not like to read, who can memorize the lyrics to countless pop songs, or an incredible amount of sports statistics, or the scripts to numerous TV shows, teen-exploitation movies and commercials, but who cannot find the Middle East on a map no matter how many times we try to acquaint them with it. We are teaching students who cannot put two ideas together from two sources because it requires them too think and they don't like to think. (They do actually make these complaints regularly: "I hate reading;" "thinking makes my head hurt"). We are trying to teach young people who spend countless hours playing computer games where they play at being soldiers. We are trying to teach students who are up at all hours of the night texting their friends with their cell phones.
    I humbly submit this hypothesis. Society is failing its schools by failing to value education, by failing to give positive role models to its children and by confusing children about what is important through media, sports, entertainment and marketing. Schools are a reflection of the society in which they exist. It is society that is failing.
    Please stop putting the entire burden of this failure on the schools and those of us who work in them.

    There is no quesion that rationality and an appreciation of design are necessary to real science, such that not even the Dennett's can avoid talking at least about algorithms, and that the problem is as old as skepticism, itself. However, Darwin, himself, was no skeptic, and neither were most of his readers. And I see nothing wrong with calling the Bible the inerrant Word of God, as long as you define "Word" as natural and not some supernaturalism. We are all after all creatures of some sort of God, and it is certainly presumptuous to believe that God is somehow like us, but that is what many evangelicals want to believe, isn't it? Ockham solved this problem by divorcing God's absolute will from his ordinary one (ie, Nature), a position central to the Reformation and Enlightenment, and it is only those who want to conflate the two and somehow control God in the process, who believe otherwise. It is they, not the real evangelicals, or the scientists, who are the unbelievers and anti-intellectuals, and are the progenitors of political correctness. Ppl may want to consult more erudite books like Nathan Hatch's Democratization of American Christianity, Robert J. Richards's Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior, and Robert C. Bannister's Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought.

    Bittle, Johnson, & Susan Jacoby's work really target a consistent and unwavering look at how Americans go about or avoid knowing. At a time where we purport to have the best army, healthcare, will to overcome (USA = #1 proposition), I find it interesting that we really have created a narrative that has little basis in our longterm reality.

    I was told as a young student that the definition of true maturity was not age acquisition, but a willingness to delay gratification. It appears that anything that gets in the way of immediate wants and needs becomes demonized (raising taxes to pay for our debt, or taking the time to really research and discuss our consitution). Borrowing a title from Naomi Klein, we have reached a shock point in culture: The age of regression!

    Th question is will we grow up in time to deal with these issues before it is too late...


    Citizen John

    Hi Bill thanks for all that you do! Unfortunately I totally disagree with Susan Jacoby where she says we as citizens are part to blame as is president bush for the problems we face today! I need not have to remind Susan Jacoby that as a voter in us elections I never asked president bush to be covert and bypass all congressional approval! To expand these ideas where does the problem lie with the way president bush was raised from a child to a young man and why does she never mention growing up and more important his parents! This is something Susan Jacoby theory does not mention as possible part of the problem and what I see does play a big role! In this way Susan Jacoby forgoes time and space and makes it all an illusion and she needs to clarify her ideals!
    This was we as people and herself should always strive in this world and be more accountable!


    Ps: Bill Moyers was it any wonder on show 02/15 you talked about the balancing the budget and Npr Radio I head on the same day the Scientists of USA cried foul about scientific research and over last 2 bush administrations 7 years back they could not get anything done and they where mislead in every direction! Once again we all need to strive to greater status and rise up by self interspection!

    For Americans to attack Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 because ANY Arab country would do is as morally reprehensible as it is ignorant. Even if one only paid attention to the mainstream media it was evident that Saddam Hussein was not suicidal to the extent he would launch an attack on America or give WMD's to terrorists to use on us. He knew the Bush Administration was gunning for him and could trace any such actions. The man had doubles and slept in a different place every night Self preservation was his main concern. So why would people think he was going to attack us. Probably because they didn't even pay attention to CNN!
    As for the mass graves mentioned previously - many contained the bodies of those George Herbert Walker Bush said we would help if they rose up against Saddam after the Gulf War. But we did not, we betrayed them and Saddam slaughtered them. So it's rather hypocritical as well as ignorant to think we bear no responsibility for those mass murders.

    Hi Bill thanks for all that you do! Unfortunately I totally disagree with Susan Jacoby where she says we as citizens are part to blame as is president bush for the problems we face today! I need not have to remind Susan Jacoby that as a voter in us elections I never asked president bush to be covert and bypass all congressional approval! To expand these ideas where does the problem lie with the way president bush was raised from a child to a young man and why does she never mention growing up and more important his parents! This is something Susan Jacoby theory does not mention as possible part of the problem and what I see does play a big role! In this way Susan Jacoby forgoes time and space and makes it all an illusion and she needs to clarify her ideals!
    This was we as people and herself should always strive in this world and be more accountable!


    Ps: Bill Moyers was it any wonder on show 02/15 you talked about the balancing the budget and Npr Radio I head on the same day the Scientists of USA cried foul about scientific research and over last 2 bush administrations 7 years back they could not get anything done and they where mislead in every direction! Once again we all need to strive to greater status and rise up by self interspection!

    I feel compelled to comment on an earlier post. Susan Jacoby did not say that no innocent civilians were killed in Iraq before the US invasion. Instead, she was referring specifically to the number of people killed in suicide bombings. I also don't recall Jacoby dismissing all religious belief as ignorant. She was concerned that people claimed to believe in certain religious thoughts without being adequately informed about them, and that some treated evolution and creationism simply as two different "theories" or "opinions."

    Concerning our "addiction to infotainment", the following recent article says:

    - Could articles ever be ``easy'' enough, or will visuals eventually ``triumph'' over text? Will readers begin thinking that they exist only to be entertained and start thinking that something must be horribly wrong if they find themselves getting bored ― for even half a second?

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/opi_view.asp?newsIdx=16388&categoryCode=162

    Bill,
    Why don't you have Noam Chomsky and
    Howard Zinn on your program--two
    knowledgeable educators!

    What is scary is the 2nd post from a republican who felt the sting but the others agree that we as a whole are dumbed down to and disagree with knowledge of any kind. We have a person running for president who does not believe in science. He thinks that he, like the one in the seat today, speak directly with God, therefore, we others are lesser than and as most republicans, believe we the 'others' should all be hung for treason or put to harsh death. No one claimed there was no deaths in Iraq before we got there but as the next guest proved, we caused millions to become 'refugees.' Also many mistakenly think Rev. for rapture but depends on your bible's translation. Most people have read the left behind series but not the bible itself. Again you think only biblical but what about secular? If you wish to live and think that the bible is literal and not inspired, than good for you but don't think the rest of us should be placed in that 'shariah' of your choice.If people were willing to reason and think, we as a people would not be in two camps that allow us to fight against one another. If you truly read your bible, you would know that Jesus said a house divided can not stand or something to this effect. Also I agree with Ms Jacaby that 'conservative' don't think that their group has elites. I love how they don't consider Mr. Bush as a multi millionaire. His dang boots cost $45,000 a pair! His daddy is super rich but they only talk about George Sorros. There are multi-millionaires supporting the repubicans but that is ok. Great story line but the two sides will not see themselves in it.

    Dear Mr. Moyers:

    Susan Jacoby is excellent! She focused on how we as Americans made our critical decisions based on emotion. Please find a way to bring her back. All of us, media, viewer, and citizen. The Svengali of this piece is Cheney, who manipulated us into a war which cost trillians in treasure and Thousands in lives and tens of thousands in in personal injuries. Saddam was hot the only obnoxious leader in the world. There is the leadeship of Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Iran and maybe. China. Susan Jacoby is a fine intellect please find a reason to bring her back on your show.

    Great show Mr. Moyer; Susan Jacoby spoken words gives one pause of thought in the spoken words of leaders; I am concern with the subliminal message uttered by the President during his Address to the Nation. The following lines are worrisome:
    “Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy. American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission.”

    One can conclude based on past historical uttering that, the President means to commit the nation to a longer commitment far beyond his administration. Yesterday (NPR) National Public Radio aired a commentary that said this nation is embarking on doing just what I and many see as a concern; this President and this Administration is seeking to utilize (SOFA) Status of Forces Agreement, as the means to secure agreements that would commit the nation to perhaps securing and being the military guarantor of security for Iraq, that in so doing this nation would have to keep forces in the current territory of Iraq. SOFA was implemented for the Armed Forces to secure right for American soldiers in other countries, after a treaty had been ratified and consented by the Congress. SOFA’s are not treaties and should not be allowed to be used as such by any administration. The governed Past & present have historically and constitutionally given Congress that power and responsibility to enter and sign treaties. This is another step towards what many see as an Imperial Presidency that the nation cannot afford. This nation is a Federal Democracy with three equal branches of governance. It was this imperialistic view that led Hamilton, Madison, and other founders to fight for the system of government currently deteriorating why should “We the people” give that up, I’m one who is not ready in giving it up.
    Sincerely, Jorge

    I can't believe this guest would say that no innocent civilians were killed in Iraq before the US involvement. I seem to remember the military uncovering multiple mass graves immediatly after occupation.

    Furthermore, I cannot abide by people who insist on the open mindedness of others, yet offer none of their own. I feel that Ms. Jacoby dismissed all Religious thought as ignorant. Some of our histories greatest thinkers have been religious men of various faiths, a bit of history that Ms. Jacoby seems to have conveniently forgotten in the midst of berating our education system for its own shortcoming. As a side note, the book of Revelation does not discuss the rapture. The books of Thessalonians do. It is not more far fetched than that of nirvana or reincarnation or that of intelligent life on other planets.

    A truly unbiased, or at least equally represented debate by equally qualified people of two differing views would be refreshing in the future.

    Unless leaders as a group, and media pundits as a group reform their styles of confrontation and shouting opinion as "fair and balanced," this decrying the ignorance of the citizenry is futile. It is not a problem of teaching other stuff in school -- students have never learned stuff well (read Huck Finn for evidence of school effectiveness on many -- lots and lots of Huck Finns out there).

    When we cannot take a position on just about anything without helicopter parents swooping in from any perspective (left, right, secular, fundamentalist, tolerant, intolerant), the correction cannot be education. When educators get caught by the latest fad in teaching, we can't look there for improvement. When we are obsessed about base fundamentals and pet approaches, the arts, the sciences, the math, the music, the learning falls off.

    But there never was a golden age of learning.

    Ever.

    Susan Jacoby attributes the shift to "troops" as individuals rather than a collective large number of warriors. She says that it likely originates with some "dumb" PR flack attempting (unnecessarily) to be gender inclusive.

    I point out that the current usage allows for inclusion of the several branches of the military. Thus a "list of US troops killed this week", need not be restricted to the US Army (as might be the case of the term "US soldiers")...but is generic enough to allow for fallen Marines, Airmen, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen as well.

    I DO agree with her that the usage does dehumanize those to whom it refers.

    I am reminded of folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie's Vietnam era protest song: The Universal Soldier (who "really is to blame") and I try to imagine how the lyric would have sounded as "The Universal Troop."

    People desire and require leadership and leadership comes from the elite, well educated who believe that part of their purpose in life is to give something back for the public good. This mission of the well educated elite is missing. Few expect anyone to rise up for any purpose. I think our country has been here before and I think we will survive this age of ignorance the same way we survived the 1950s and the red scare. The missing piece right now is a lack of intellectual leadership to bring the country along to better places than where we are right now.

    The media aren't helping. How often are thinkers in the limelight? Why do actors and musicians get so much attention relative to analysis of real trends that are affecting our lives? Intellectuals are often demonized, as if thinking deeply were somehow a bad thing.

    I would add a fourth R to the curriculum: reasoning. Critical thinking should be taught in the sixth grade; right now you only get exposed to logical fallacies as a lower division class in a college philosophy course. Teach kids to sort out truth from spin as early as possible, and have them teach their parents.

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