Americans are in serious intellectual trouble -- in danger of losing our hard-won cultural capital to a virulent mixture of anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and low expectations.
They posit a number of reasons for this (and to my mind, they focus a little too much on the internet killing newspapers, but they are a little biased!), but the bottom line is correct.
Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture (and by video, I mean every form of digital media, as well as older electronic ones); a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism. (emphasis mine)
So what do we do about it? Well, the presidential campaign isn't helping - candidates are pandering to the lowest common denominator, as usual. We need to elevate the debate, focus on where we're losing out as a nation, where we're letting down today's kids - tomorrow's scientists who will drive the future of this country. Sciencedebate2008 is one place to start, but we also have to push at the grassroots level - at the local school board level, at the state government level to make sure that we're not left behind.
There was one glimmer of hope this week - Florida adopted new science standards that include the word "Evolution" for the first time, despite the pleas of the religious right who pushed to have creationism taught alongside science:
There's a story on the vote here.