A random sampling of the stupid.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

America may have the most geniuses, but that doesn't affect the average

Is the US media making Americans stupid? That's the question posed by this article at the Daily Clarity. My initial response would be "stupider, certainly, but maybe not stupid". It's a perfectly fine article, not terribly informative but certainly has some food for thought. My only problem is this point:

Firstly, let us state up front, we do not think Americans are a race of low intelligence or by nature intrinsically stupid. This is a common assertion from international critics of the US, but one that is easily countered by examining the history of technological innovation, medical research breakthroughs, and the alumni of America’s better universities.

Ummm, so what? Where are the statistics on average US IQ vs. other countries? How about our scores on international standardized tests? The point is that a few outliers don't represent a statistical mass. Put another way, the fact that a large number of highly intelligent and productive come from the US* isn't relevant when trying to assess the nation as a whole. Especially in elections, where all votes matter the same amount.

So just becase we may have produced some of the greatest technological breakthroughs in the US doesn't mean the whole country is smarter. Nor does the fact that Palin was so popular among some make the whole country dumber. Can't judge the whole by a few outliers.

Error rating: 4. Relatively minor error to the point of the article, but it's a big logical error.


*For this to matter at all, one would at least need to show that there are a disproportionately large number of advances coming from the US. This might be the case, but it doesn't mean we're smarter. Just do a better job of fostering/funding new technologies.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

In the paragraph you quote from our article, in fact the US does not score particularly well on comparative tests (see Nationmaster under education for a variety of measures). If one then factors in the cost bases - the US education system performs relatively poorly.

The implied point, and I kept it simple, is that the way modern America processes information is in essence dysfunctional.

The media is supportive of this speed reading ADD approach - brevity and quick scan processing versus detailed reading.