The Dumbing Down of America: Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Single Supreme Court Justice

A survey conducted by finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name any members of the supreme court. We’re not talking about trying to name all nine.  The majority of Americans can’t even name one.

That’s pretty astounding, particularly given that supreme court rulings can have such a broad based impact on the lives of citizens. That’s pretty profound as well in terms of what else this situation speaks to.  If someone is not familiar with who is on the supreme court, there’s likely not a lot of knowledge about supreme court functions, rulings and history.  The concerns don’t stop there either, as given this, it’s likely that many Americans probably can’t name their senators or congresspersons and if they can’t do that, they certainly can’t make an informed judgment on any issues faced by the nation or the world at large.

This is evidence of a huge disconnect between the citizens and those who govern them.  A democracy can’t really exist in such a situation, however, a demagogue can do quite well.  That’s the reason why the political discourse seems to be so full of slogans and scare tactics as a substitute for reason and facts. 

To some extent, this disconnect is driven by economics.  Let’s face it, keeping up with a lot of what’s occurring takes time and focus and if one is trying to keep his job, there may not be a lot of leisure time to keep up.  Also, there’s the excessive amount of diversions that are constantly kept in front of people clouding many minds with nonsense and non-issues.  As I write this, the top five trending topics on yahoo are:

  1. Victoria Principal
  2. Mariah Carey
  3. Oil Containment
  4. Tipper Gore
  5. Elizabeth Taylor

Only one significant topic of interest among the top 5 and the rest of the topics affect nothing, but many would probably know more about the insignificant than something like the supreme court.

A disconnected and ignorant populace is akin to pliable putty in the hands of political operatives of all stripes and this is exploited in a few ways beyond demagoguery. It must be kept in mind that voter suppression is a much of a tactic for winning elections as securing voter turnout is.  Demagoguery often gets some disaffected groups to the polls, while apathy and ignorance keeps others away.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s been designed this way, but it’s certainly been exploited. This is how a loud and boisterous group who’s actually small in numbers can have a disproportionate impact in elections. This is also how legislators can be corrupted and bought off.  If the citizens don’t know the names of those who occupy key positions in their government, they certainly can’t watch them.  If you don’t know who to watch, holding folks to account is impossible. 

I’ve always felt that the government is a reflection of the state of the people and it’s clear that’s far less than optimal.





One Response to “The Dumbing Down of America: Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name a Single Supreme Court Justice”
  1. Its telling that Clarence Thomas was the most frequently identified associate justice.

    After years of being attacked his name has stuck on many people’s minds.

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