The Knowledge Deficit

December 30th, 2010

Is America running up a deficit in the knowledge department? According to two recent articles to pass my eyes, yes, we are.

What is the knowledge deficit?
Politicians of the day understand that science, facts, and reason are not the way into the voters hearts. So do the news channels, cable and otherwise. People are using opinion in place of knowledge, and opinion will always rule the day because it is easier to align with a person’s belief system than are facts. According to Benjamin J. Barber in his recent piece in The Nation called “America’s Knowledge Deficit”, it’s not that Americans can’t learn… “it is not what American’s don’t know that is so pernicious to our democracy… it is that they don’t know what knowing actually is.”

Why is the knowledge deficit a problem?
Larry Kramer says, “It’s a bad thing for democracy. We are creating a less-informed but more opinionated public.”

Benjamin also supports this idea:

“… democracy is government by citizens, and citizenship is defined by education, deliberation, judgment and the capacity to find common ground. This is the difference between democracy as mob rule and democracy as deliberative civic engagement. Mob rule asks only for the expression of prejudice and subjective opinion. Democracy demands deliberative judgment.”

In his article, Benjamin also quotes Chris Hedges,

“A populous deprived of the ability to separate lies from truth, that has become hostage to the fictional semblance of reality put forth by pseudo-events, is no longer capable of sustaining a free society.”

What’s causing the deficit?
Kramer has suggested that time pressures have pushed people toward the necessity of using the biases of opinion-media to form opinions rather than spend the time to properly educate themselves. It could be a fault of the media. We could also blame the internet… The System. I think we also need to look at people themselves. Is it partially laziness? Is it a feeling of disenfranchisement? There probably is no single answer, but rather a very complex interplay of forces.

Regardless, I’m in complete agreement that there is a problem here. But, the solutions is one that currently escapes me.