Wise Up: America has always had a love affair with ignorance

If it’s a parent’s duty to embarrass their children, then the parents caught in the college admissions scandal have outdone themselves. And this although it’s obvious that Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade, for one, never wanted to go to college to begin with. Her particular genius lies in self-promotion, where she’s already an expert. Which is odd when you consider that her parents, both strong supporters of higher education, surely must have modeled reading and curiosity and a deep passion for art and history and ideas throughout her childhood. I mean, wherefrom this image fixation? Why this need for back door machinations? 

She’s an influencer, which is a job now, a lucrative one. She does incredibly lame sales pitches for sponsors who want in on her popularity, and she’s popular for being the vapid but pretty and oh-so enviable daughter of celebrities, blissfully unconcerned with anything outside the brand she’s been building since she was fourteen. You can see that dedication in her red carpet photos, the way she poses with her shoulders back for maximum sex appeal. She seems like a genuinely nice, hard-working kid, but she radiates a particular kind of childlike insolence, the kind a twenty-year old shows when she ignores the internship to sleep with the president of the company. The same wide-eyed spit-in-your-eye Kardashian kind that takes its haul and the hell with wagging fingers.

What matters is having enough followers. Take Kylie Jenner, a shabby billionaire heading a cosmetic business she knows nothing about, peddling make-up kits to tweens enamored by her family’s equally shoddy celebrity. None of that matters, and she knows it, and that visible insolence only compounds her success. (Although sister Kendall Jenner might be running into a little bit of an issue, due to her Fyre Festival involvement. Apparently there’s some minor difference between being a paid model and being a self-employed influencer, something confusing to do with responsibility. Whatever.)

It’s all about the oblivious leading the gullible, with a few of them getting rich and millions loving them for it and want to be just like them. Stupid is where the money is. 

The truth is, we Americans love stupidity; we always have, it’s in our national DNA. We’re proud of it, we proclaim our ignorance! We’ve always been looking to outsmart those redcoats, those snotty Europeans, those revenuers, those company big-wigs, those scientists, that eastern elite. We may not be educated but we’re shrewd, we know what’s what. Look at Will Rogers, or Mark Twain, or that “country lawyer,” Senator Sam Ervin. Look at Lincoln, with his sly tales to confound established assumptions. Or, obviously, our current president. It’s always us against them. In America, reading is a chore and never exciting, or pleasurable, or a privilege, or an adventure, or an inestimable joy, or an opportunity to engage with another’s brilliant, questioning mind. Frankly, too much reading is kind of suspect; it’s just not healthy, and anyway we have our Bibles. And while science and math are worth something in the job market if you have that kind of brain, history is mostly boring, and philosophy the epitome of uselessness. Everyone knows school isn’t really any use after maybe eighth grade unless you’re a genius and going into medicine or technology, and that’s just training, not excess erudition.

The real money’s with brothers Logan and Jake Paul, or the Jackass movies and their ilk. It pays to play to stupid, to court those who equate ignorance with faith, glamor with quality, and inclination with truth. Maybe the stupid people are right, and the venal, primitive truths inevitably triumph. The company president really does prefer the empty-headed beauty to the wife of thirty years. You daily news is designed to your tastes, so as not to offend you with contrary opinions. Breaking old stuff is fun because tearing down is always the first step in creation. If you can get away with it, that probably means you should. Stupid is as stupid does.

But America has this little problem: a college degree is almost a necessity these days, whether for survival or prestige. Gotta get that diploma. How did that happen, anyway? Who made that rule, New World Order globalists? There’s something plain mean about it. And getting that piece of paper is no joke these days, when even the brightest college applicants are over-worked, over-scheduled, and consumed by stress. It’s a full-time job. It’s work.

But the diploma is the prize, not the education. Nobody every talks about learning. Depending on your place on the spectrum, it might even warp your all-American values. And for what? I mean, why spend your days listening to some underpaid adjunct dissect War and Peace when Kylie Jenner is a billionaire.

SALES PITCH: As journalist Con Manos, protagonist in Worthy of This Great City, says, “It’s just that I always underestimate stupidity, even though I know it rules the world.” The Reader Alert for Worthy remains up on the Home page, so check it out, along with the Prologue on the Excerpts page. The Kindle sale, alas, has ended. Even so – prove me wrong, buy a book.

Photo credits: Matt Madd, college (CC BY 2.0) / Ron Mader, Buzzword Bingo Willful Ignorance = Inentional and blatant avoidance, disregard or disagreement with facts (CC BY-SA 2.0) / Tax Credits, College (CC BY 2.0)