Are some of us “proud” of being uninformed about things like the “smarter than a 5th grader” contestant who has written books yet thought Europe was a country?
Should we be proud that our people are experts on eating fatty foods and the details of Britney’s latest meltdown, Rush hour rage, trivia on Harry Potter and sports figures who did or did not use the latest performance-enhancing illegal drugs, but haven’t got a clue about the countries where billions of our dollars go every year to buy gas, toys with lead paint and tainted drugs?
What does this portend for our future as a superpower?
Within the past two years we have had Congressional leaders who did not know that Muslims are split between Shiite and Sunnis and who hate each other as much or more than the Irish Catholics and Protestants did in their time. We elected a President in 2000 who had been in only three countries and whose administration under John Ashcroft actually cut millions from counter-terrorism funding before 9/11 on the assumption that it wasn’t a priority.
To have future leaders with real world knowledge and strategy we will have to have an American public more attuned to the world than pictures of Princess Di in Paris. We don’t have to read 600 page novels but reading The Economist from London would be informative and a good start.
When 5th graders know more about the world than adults writing books, and our leadership, we are in trouble. Our ignorance will not help us maintain our superior standard of living.
The proof is that imprudent decisions are coming home to roost. Our trillions in petro-dollars have made it easier for Dubai to buy Wall Street than get a contract to manage our ports. The Euro has gained so much against the dollar that U.S. stores now take Euros as payment (a first) and the Taj Mahal tourist mecca in India no longer takes dollars (also a first). Our dollar has sunk along with the housing bust, the sub-prime mess, and as the Iraq conflict has yielded a $1 trillion IOU to the folks in China, Dubai, etc. At the minimum we’ll need to learn to say “Thank you” in Chinese and Arabic.
The silver lining is that our exports are now cheaper – but that requires a people with global knowledge and skills. Not too many negotiations in Europe will hinge on your details of baseball history – but could on European soccer and the latest technology available.
Big changes are happening around us, America. Castro is out as “President” of Cuba, Musharraf just lost his party base in nuclear Pakistan, Russia has become rich and aggressive and the even richer Chinese are allowing Darfur killing to happen as they take Sudan's oil -- while our leadership cuts $200 million from the African Peacekeeping forces just before the President’s trip. So, Africans are increasingly more likely to die from rebel bullets in Sudan or ethnic knives in Kenya than AIDS. All of this will affect our American future. Our oil comes from these areas, and so does potential terrorism.
All of us better know more than the 5th graders to keep from losing any more of our superpower status. Personally, I’m hoping the Pentagon folks have enough math and science to shoot down hazardous space satellites – instead of our international space station!