Is America dumbing down? Is this once great country doomed to mediocrity?

Have we forgotten our civics lessons from days gone by?

Do the average Joe and Jane comprehend what they read?

Those are reasonable questions this day and time. It doesn’t seem so from some of the comments The Daily Sentinel receives on factual news stories and its commentary and opinion. People seem to make stories and opinion say whatever they want it to say.

More alarming than that are recent surveys that show many Americans know very little about the country they live in. Late night TV shows prove the point too when reporters are sent to the streets to ask basic questions about everyday life. The result is often hilarious the answers to most of the questions are elementary but for some it’s not quite so simple.

Now, let’s get a bit more serious than just television shows meant to make people laugh because the root problem is deeper than a late night parody.

A recent National Geographic poll of Americans aged 18 to 24 revealed that six percent failed to locate the U.S. on a map of the world. The number rose to 10 percent for those with a high school education or less. Come on — that is basic geography.

The same group was worse when it came to world geography. Only one in three could identify Great Britain on a map and just one if four could locate Israel or Iran on a map.

In the same group, two thirds of respondents placed the population of the U.S. between 750 million and two billion people. Actually, it’s just slightly less than 300 million.

What’s more alarming is the fact that a poll by McCormick Tribune Museum found that Americans know very little about the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, free speech, free press, assemble and the ability to petition government. Only one person in the 1,000 surveyed correctly identified all of those rights. Just one in four people could name even one of those protected rights yet that same percentage could name more members of the Simpson cartoon family than First Amendment rights.

That same survey showed:

• A mere one in four Americans know the Earth circles the Sun

• 75 percent of Americans believe English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world

• 6 percent of Americans don’t know the date of Independence Day

Another poll by the National Science Foundation found that out of 2,200 people surveyed who took a nine-question science survey participants scored an average of 6.5 percent. The questions that dealt with astronomy and science were very basic.

It’s a sad day.

• A Newsweek poll that challenged 1,000 Americans to complete the country’s citizenship test showed that only 29 percent knew the current vice president’s, Joe Biden, name

Did I hear someone say, “It doesn’t matter?”

If we’re that dumb, it does matter. It also matters when a well-respected newspaper from a foreign country shows a cartoon with students from China studying a math textbook, kids from India reading a science textbook and an American student, cap on head, blowing bubbles and listening to an iPod with a closed textbook on his desk. The perception is Americans are dumb and that assessment may not be too far from truth.

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