America the Stupid

Why TV continues to make us dumb and dumber. By David Lipson

There’s been a lot of hand wringing lately about how dumb America is getting. If you haven’t heard about it, students in the United States of America now rank anywhere from 15th to 31st in the world when tested in math, science and reading. What an outrage! Most of the reaction I heard was as American as baseball in July: We looked for someone or something to blame.

To be honest, I pointed my finger at the testers. China number one? Hah! The country that cheats on everything from currency to steel surely rigged the test! Who you callin’ number 31? Others blamed the poor, parents, teacher unions or some combination of all three. [SIGNUP]

And then I read this headline in the New York Times: “TV Viewing Continues To Edge Up.” That’s right, despite all we hear about the Internet craze, the iPad phenomenon and our addiction to cell phones (hands-free or not), we are watching more TV than ever before. According to the Nielson Company, we average about 34 hours of television viewing per week. For those of us who are math-challenged, that’s about 5 hours of TV per day. And what are we watching? Shows like Jersey Shore, The Walking Dead and the most popular of new shows, Hawaii Five-O. Smart networks like the History Channel made gains with shows like Pawn Brokers and American Pickers -– America you can get rich by simply going through your or your neighbor’s trash! Folks, please allow me this opportunity to interrupt your TV viewing to make this announcement: “Our kids are stupid because we are stupid!”

Wait, you didn’t hear the news about the downward spiral of the most powerful nation in the world’s smartness quotient? You’re not alone. No one is watching the news anymore. CNN lost more viewers than any major cable station, losing 34 percent of its audience. And to those of you who claim you don’t read newspapers anymore and get your news online now, I’ve got your number. Newspapers always report, to the minute what the most-read news feature is. At the time of this writing, the most popular news item on was: “Lancaster County boy dies in manure pit.”

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