Thursday, March 02, 2006


While America Slept

The citizens of the United States of America are becoming an increasingly complacent lot.

The Americans are slipping badly on the productivity front. China is cementing its place as the main global manufacture taking many service industry jobs (although many other countries before them have accomplished this so this isn't an entirely new development, simply recurring). India is now scooping many process jobs - read back office outsourcing. Think tax processing and magnetic imaging to name a couple.

The typical US reaction - from both Democrats and Republicans - blame these countries and slap tariffs on "supposed" free trade. Others are usually to blame for American created problems. How did this happen? There are a couple of obvious answers.

The US higher education system and research community are no longer the toast of the globe. The United States is beginning to lose ground in the patent game. Research funding is increasing in many other parts of the world - Southern Asia (China, India and Japan), Central and Western European countries (Sweden, Ireland, etc). The public finances in the US are a mess. The Bush Administration has become toxic - domestically and abroad. What does this mean for the average American?

The average American is now less literate and more democratically complacent. Americans know more about hit Fox television show - "The Simpsons" than their First Amendment rights. More than half of the 1,000 people polled by Chicago's McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum could identify more characters from "The Simpsons" than name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The survey showed only one in four Americans can name more than one First Amendment freedom, but more than 50% could name at least two characters on "The Simpsons."

What is even more astonishing is that nearly 25% could name all five family members: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

In the wake of all the attention surrounding the Muslim cartoons (should papers print or not) and the subsequent global violent protests, it is discouraging to see that only about one in 10 people (11 percent) recalled Freedom of the Press.

Those freedoms, and the percentage of Americans who were able to name them when asked to list the freedoms of the First Amendment, are:
Freedom of Speech (69 percent)
Freedom of Religion (24 percent)
Freedom of the Press (11 percent)
Freedom of Assembly (10 percent)
Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances (1 percent)

Similar results were seen when comparing Americans’ knowledge of the First Amendment to that of the hit Fox Television show “American Idol.” More than four in 10 Americans (41 percent) could name two of the three “American Idol” judges and one in four could name all three. Unfortunately, just 8 percent of Americans could name at least three of their First Amendment freedoms.

What are equally frightening are some rights Americans think they have. About one in five Americans (21 percent) agreed that the First Amendment granted them the right to own and raise pets. Finally, one in five also believes that the right to drive is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

FYI - The car was not invented for another 100 years after the Bill of Rights.

I wonder how many Americans can name all the First Amendment freedoms and at least four previous American Idol winners? Let's see - there's Kelly, Rueben...

FMI - The Government of Canada once commissioned a larger study using Simpson characters as references for rural youth opinions.

And I'm sure the vast majority of Canadians could adequately name the four fundamental rights found in our own Charter.

Stupid Americans, eh?
Just for the record with Huck's post, the Canadian four fundamental rights are:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

When I thought about Huck's post, I got them all, but certainly nowhere close on the wording. And I agree that not many Canadians could rattle them off.

Also aren't there a lot more Simpson's characters than there are rights?

However, I do think Sean's major point about falling behind on productivity is valid.
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