1) Josh Billings' America. "The
trouble with people is not that they don't know, but that they know so much
that ain't so." This line, variously attributed to Mark Twain, Will Rogers
and Yogi Berra, actually originated with the 19th century humorist Josh
Billings, which in itself proves his point.
I spent a good deal of time last week
writing about the ignorance and apathy of the general public when it comes
to unions and collective bargaining. But specialists often complain that
people lack interest in their specialty, so it wouldn't surprise or bother
me to learn that many casual readers simply, uh, ignored it.
It was with impeccable timing, then,
that the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of its latest
tracking poll. It showed that
22 percent of those surveyed believe the federal health care reform bill has
been repealed. Another 26 percent didn't know or refused to answer. Only
a slim majority of 52 percent knew it is still the law of the land.
Teachers may find it ironic that now
all of us (by which I mean politicians, journalists, policy wonks, unionists
and bloggers) are faced with an environment similar to what they face in the
classroom - namely, people who don't pay attention. We're obligated to
present the material in a clear, concise and logical manner, and we should
constantly reevaluate whether we're doing that.
But at some point, it's the
responsibility of the student/audience/public to take it in. Will Rogers (really!)
said, "Everyone is ignorant, only in different subjects." And he was right.
But it seems we've reached a stage where a lot of people are ignorant of
their ignorance of those subjects, but have strong opinions anyway.
I'm an old fart now, so I remember the
days before the Internet, when information was sometimes hard to find and
ignorance was a normal and frustrating state. I spent many hours digging
through university libraries and microfiche, or traveling to archives to
find copies of old source documents. Back then, it might have taken days to
discover if Josh Billings was really the one who wrote that line.
Now we live in a world where even the
most obscure information is just a click away, but it's buried in a sea of
misinformation. And it isn't getting better. A huge American corporation
just paid $315 million for a news site that
exchanged the Five W's for an SEO.
So while we battle tooth and nail over
public policy, and berate each other for misguided viewpoints and poor
arguments, let's at least agree that it's bad for all sides if too many
people believe things that are factually untrue, and do our best to minimize
2) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog,
Intercepts, covered these topics from February 23-28:
The Power of the Ignorant Bloc. Collective what?
Donít Know and I Donít Care. If you're reading this, you probably think
Wisconsin is a really big deal. But you're in the minority.
The Lottery No One Wins. Randumb.
Soaked. Spending money like water.
3) Quote of the Week #1.
"Labor's fall has been stunning. In 2010, unions represented 6.9 percent of
private-sector workers. That's lower than the 12 percent in 1929, before
passage of the 1935 Wagner Act - the National Labor Relations Act - which
gave workers the right to organize and required employers to recognize
unions that won a secret ballot." - Washington Post columnist Robert
J. Samuelson. (February 28
Quote of the Week #2. "The thing that kind of
makes me laugh about this whole conversation is you have union leaders now
talking about the sanctity of collective bargaining. But the collective
bargaining situation is not that way when they don't get what they want.
When they don't get what they want, they go to the legislature. And then
they legislate those benefits that they couldn't get at the collective
bargaining table." - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (February 27
New York Times)