Student Media Watchdog Association

How Interested Are We?

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

By: Kelsey Heckert

Chances are, if this is your first time at The Leash, you might have seen our first real marketing blast. Chances are, if you took the trouble to remember our website, you’re intrigued by the statistics that we showcased. Chances are, if you’re taking the time to read our latest posts, you’re ready to update yourself on what’s going on in the world.

A Newsweek article, “How Dumb Are We?”, showed its citizens that America continues to be civilly and internationally ignorant. For example, in March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland, and the United States to answer questions on international affairs. “The Europeans clobbered us. 68% of Danes, 75% of Brits, and 76% of Finns identified the Taliban but only 58% of Americans managed to do the same—even though we’ve led the charge in Afghanistan.”

Regardless of this recent example, “Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators” for decades. Yes, we have a complicated political system—I can admit that anytime that there is an election I re-realize my own incompetence on current issues. Then again, I totally accept my incompetence: “Oh well, I vote in the presidential elections, that’s all that really matters anyways.” It’s that kind of brush off that gets us all into trouble.

As a side note, although I really appreciated this particular Newsweek article, I know few people who are actual subscribers, and no, it doesn’t include me. Of those subscribers I know, I would expect that they could pass the U.S. Citizenship, it’s the non-subscribers that I’m worried about. Those who don’t subscribe to Newsweek could subscribe to Time magazine or to a more national newspaper, but what about those who don’t really have a particular interest in current events? How can we reach out to that untapped segment of America? Well, we can acknowledge that SMWA isn’t going to change the world, but SMWA can at least add current events and public discussion to the public interest.

Although the Newsweek article is an interesting read, here are some other interesting points it makes (along with more statistics from the surveyed 1,000 participants on the U.S. Citizenship Test): “While isolationism is fine in an isolated society, we can no longer afford to mind our own business. What happens in China and India (or at a Japanese nuclear plant) affects the autoworker in Detroit; what happens in the statehouse and the White House affects the competition in China and India.” “The current conflict over government spending illustrates the new dangers of ignorance…poll after pool shows that voters have no idea what the budget actually looks like. A 2010 World Public Opinion survey found that Americans want to tackle deficits by cutting foreign aid from what they believe is the current level (27% of the budget) to a more prudent 13%. The real number is under 1%.” “The problem is ignorance, not stupidity. We suffer from a lack of information rather than a lack of ability.”

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