Are you an Idiot? January 19th this year, both CNN and Fox News published similar articles that insist that you, me, and all our peers here in college are in fact, idiots. The evidence CNN provided (Fox News’s Todd Starnes focused mostly on insulting us and less on the numbers) was a recent poll conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in August 2015 that showed 10% of college students, out of a sample size of 1,000, thought Judge Judy served on the Supreme Court of the United States. They went on to ask several other questions pertaining to American history and heritage, one of which was “Who was the father of the Constitution?” 59% of the individuals polled incorrectly answered Thomas Jefferson.
Now, we could spend a sizable amount of time questioning how well this poll’s findings can be applied statistically speaking, just as we could waste time trying to refute the insulting conclusion these news groups have come to as a result of said poll. Rather than gratify them with a counter-argument, we should better use our time by engaging in some healthy self-reflection. What if they are right? Don’t let me steer you wrong, if this poll is correct, we would have a serious issue on our hands. There are some basic aspects of American History we should know, in particular how our government works. If we didn’t know that sort of information, that would be a far more convincing claim against our intelligence. at is not the focus of Fox or CNN, though. These major news groups are equating our knowledge of history to our capacity to be intelligent, functioning American citizens. Knowing what year the Constitution was signed decides whether we are good citizens or not, it seems.
Consider the following: one of the many freeing aspects of college is your ability to choose your major, and subsequently avoid classes that are not useful or interesting to you. A science major, for example, would not be required to take several history classes, art classes, or other things of the sort. Likewise, a history major wouldn’t be expected to take science classes. Can you then fairly judge the intelligence of a person studying to be a physicist by their knowledge of the events of the 1800’s? To a degree, no you cannot. It would be insane to say Einstein was an idiot based entirely on his inability to name a set of men who have been dead for a hundred years. What you would instead say about Einstein is that he lacked a breadth of knowledge, as the depth of intelligence he had in physics was unquestionable.
Let us assume these respectable news stations are not equating the random memorization of facts with the capacity to be intelligent and capable citizens, and are instead pointing out that some college students lack a breadth of knowledge, despite our depth of knowledge in our respective subjects. at interpretation of their argument is far more befitting of a quality news station, as opposed to what it sounds like they are saying at first glance. is argument is a valid point to make, and it is one reason I myself intend on getting the most out of my degree here at RMC. RMC says it all in the paragraph at the base of their homepage. They produce well rounded individuals and cultivate informed citizens through their liberal arts program. We are required to study a variety of subjects in addition to our major in order to insure we have both a depth of knowledge and a healthy breadth of knowledge. If nothing else, having a breadth of knowledge will also help you spite the growing crowd of people who think you are an idiot because some other poor college kid didn’t know James Madison was the father of the Constitution.