Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Dumbing Down of Americans

Yes, I know, this is a book blog, and I believe that I've used extreme fortitude in not ranting about politics this election year - at least not as much as I did 4 years ago! But, I just can't take it any more. There are several news items that have stuck in my craw over the past couple of weeks, between the newspaper and the Daily Show, I just can't let this slide.

It began when John Stewart ran a skit a few weeks ago about Time Magazine. I suppose I know enough about publishing to realize, after the fact, that this happens more often than we'd care to admit, but...it seems that Time's publishers don't believe that Americans have enough of a world view to be interested in international news. Therefore, they run a different cover photo and article in the states than they run in other countries.

The example John gave was an in-depth essay about Italy's new prime minister, Mario Monti. OK, even if you don't love Italy the way I do, you need to know what's happening in the world. Correct? But no, Time's U.S. version that week ran a cover story about Americans' love affairs with their animals. Say what??

Right on the heels of this show I happened to be reading a feature story by Barbara Hoffert  in the Feb. 15th issue of Library Journal  in which she evaluated U.S. public library circulation statistics by genre. The results, while not surprising, served to illustrate why I'm so disillusioned with my once brilliant career choice. Literary fiction, which I review and hope to do more of in my retirement, came in dead last. Hmmmm. Worse yet, in non-fiction, politics and government were on the bottom of the totem pole. So much for an informed public! http://bit.ly/xSxYtO

So let's move on to Rick Santorum. Must we? you may ask. Well yes, know thine enemy! Just when I thought nothing worse could come from his mouth, he had the temerity to call our president a snob because he believes that all kids in these United States should have an opportunity to improve their lives through education.
 But look out folks, they might be brainwashed by some liberal educator and transformed into a Barack Obama clone! Hey, why would we want our kids to aspire to the presidency? Is this like, "how ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" Remember what happened to Flaubert's Madame Bovary when she tried to improve her mind with books?

This wedge that's being driven hard into the hearts of Americans is so disheartening that I just don't know what to do. How sad that Olympia Snow, a most respected moderate Republican senator is being driven from the Senate because she knows that she'll get nothing more accomplished in this current atmosphere.

How tragic that teachers, ( my mom was one) once considered, like librarians, as a cornerstone of an informed society, are being vilified, denigrated, and disrespected by parents and politicians alike. What a travesty that a man like Rick Santorum could illegally educate his kids in Pennsylvania while he actually living in Virginia http://bit.ly/wCwzA9, but that a black, single mom from Ohio who wanted a good education for her girls was sentenced to FIVE years in prison for using her dad's address to help them into a better school. http://bit.ly/eecJzR

But lest you think I'm only reading the news I'll disabuse you of that notion right now. Books I'm reading that I probably won't blog about because they aren't setting me on fire are Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic and Val McDermid's horrifying murder mystery The Distant Echo. I will be yakking about Running the Rift and my book discussion next week on Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. I also had a starred review in that same Feb. 15th issue of Library Journal. I love it when that happens! http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2012/02/books/fiction/lj-reviews/

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