The Dumbfuckification of Damn Near Everything

Jaime O'Neill's picture

Nearly thirty years ago, I was profiled on 60 Minutes for a piece I wrote about how ignorant Americans seemed to be getting. I had drawn the attention of Mike Wallace and a film crew from CBS based on an article I’d written in which I shared some of the answers I’d gotten from college students in my Freshman composition classes, responding to a range of questions about history, geography, literature, and politics. The questions I’d crafted were about things I had previously thought to be common knowledge among people who were high school grads with an interest in further education. It turned out that my assumptions about what people knew were wildly optimistic. Before I drafted the little quiz to see what my students knew, I would have bet heavily that damn near everyone knew when the American Civil War had been fought, at least within a decade or so. I surely assumed that anyone I might encounter knew how to find France on a map, or knew the name of the man who had written Hamlet.

Silly me.

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