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August 18, 2006


J.R. Stoodley

Ah, but can you name the thirteen dwarves of the Hobbit?

Thorin Oakenshield


What about the actual Fathers of the Dwarfs? You know, the actual historical figures?

Nyi, Nidi, Nordri, Sudri, Austri, Vestri, Althiolf, Dvalin, Nar, Nain, Niping, Dain, Bifur, Bofur, Nori, Ori, Onar, Oin, Modvitner, Vig, Gandalf, Vindalf, Thorin, Fili, Kili, Fundin, Vali, Thror, Throin, Thekk, Lit, Vitr, Nyr, Nyrad, Rekk, Radsvinn, Draupnir, Doglthvari, Hor, Hugstari, Hlediolf, Gloin, Dori, Duf, Andvari, Heptifili, Har, Siar, Skirpir, Virpir, Skafinn, Ai, Alf, Ingi, Eikinskialdi (which means Oak Shield), Fal, Frosti, Finn, Ginnar.

Alright, I admit I had to look that one up. Cool list though.

Francis DS

which also revealed that more people know that Krypton is Superman's home planet than know Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun

But then again, which of these two pieces of trivia has been of more use in our social/professional/emotional life?


You mean there's no Justice Grumpy? When did that happen? ;-)


What bothers more is that people often can't identify the Vice-President or the President (see Jaywalking).

However, worse than that, is when people cannot answer basic questions like:

How many states are in the U.S.?
What year was the Declaration of Independence signed?
What year was the war of 1812?
Who bombed Pearl Harbor?
Who did the U.S. and its allies fight in WW II?
How long does it take for the Earth to rotate on its axis?
How many moons does the Earth have?

Some of the these I have seen on The Tonight Show (Jaywalking), but most I have asked people myself, and have been shocked. The last two questions were asked of college graduates by Leno at a college graduation ceremony...

Patricio Acevedo

I'm sorry if I'm pointing the obvious, but this story is saying:
People are stupid, they know more about fictional characters than about real important people. It's the same with their god, and the true god: politics.
And that bothers me.

Souter is Dopey.

For the record, it is Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


That's putting a positive spin on it Jimmy! Nice try, valiant effort. Disappointing and shocking information -- I also heard that only a third or so of people could identify the 3 branchs of government while large numbers could identify the 3 stooges.

Stupidity might be excusable -- this is willful ignorance. We have to quit making excuses for it. We're Americans - living in the 21st century - we need to be smarter.


In a recent speech I gave at a university, I had to introduce the concept of absolute truth to my audience (ie, that some things just are and wishing does not change that fact). I got so much resistance to the idea in my practice speeches, that I finally boiled it down as simply as I could. I put the formula 1+1=2 on the board, and asked people to raise their hand if they thought the equation was correct.

Guess what? In a room full of college students and teacher's aids, and college professors, ten percent of the people there did not believe 1+1=2.

THAT my friends is something to be truly sad about.

Tim J.

Many people are AFRAID of having meaningful lives, StubbleSpark.

If their lives are meaningless, then their actions are meaningless, which means that whatever they do is okay.

The very idea of absolute truth wrecks all that.


"Souter is Dopey"

I really wish you wouldn't demean Dopey in that way.



I think that I'd have to give them the benefit on the doubt for that one and not read to much into it. There really isn't much benefit given to them for raising their hand to agree with such an obvious statement.

Then again that could have been the math nerds and profs. Since everyone who studies elementary number theory knows for a fact that 1+1=3 for very large values of 1 and very small values of 3.


Hmmm...I missed Souter and Stephens for SCOTUS, and I couldn't remember "Happy" from SW&TSD.

There are worse things to be ignorant of. I remeber when Harlan Ellison gave a college lecture and mentioned Dachau in passing; when it came to the Q&A, someone asked: "What was Dachau?". Harlan was not happy.

and the vast majority of Americans in a recent poll could not find Iraq on a map.


So now that there's a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court, why hasn't Roe v. Wade been overturned?

I'm waiting.....


It's coming Augustine.


I believe much of this is the fault of a failing school system. Case in point, when I was taking my college classes in educational methods for teachers, we had to take the state tests for 8th graders. In Social Studies, one question was

What is the highest court in the United States?

a. District Court
b. Night Court
c. People's Court
d. Supreme Court

3/4 of this class of soon-to-be teachers missed this question. One response was "why is this test so hard?". Another response was " That is why I have a book to teach from. I don't need to know this.".

It was at this moment that I decided I would homeschool our children.


Many parents didn't bother to keep themselves informed or model that behaviour to their children; now the grandchildren are mostly clueless when it comes to current events NOT covered in People magazine. My father used to shake his head over my peers who knew song lyrics but not the Bill of Rights. My older brother now shakes his head over his children's friends whose parents never read to them (not to mention the pre-teen girl who was SHOCKED to find that the public library lends books FOR FREE).

BTW, I nissed Breyer. I keep calling him "Beyer".


Oh, ME, take the numbskulls in your teaching classes with a grain of salt. The majority quit after the rude awakening of student teaching, if not during the classroom observation portion.

I blame parents' who think the schools should teach everything and, as a result, neglect their children's education. A story from my certification program to illustrate:

It was Philosophy of Education. It was composed mostly of "oldsters" like me - people working in other fields who decided to become teachers. But there were a few younger students in their 20s. The teacher mentioned that originally, and still in a lot of rural areas, schools were seen as a supplement to parental teaching. But now some parents even thought schools were solely responsible for teaching, including etiquette, morals, etc.

A young mother immediately agreed. She informed us that when her daughter was old enough to go to school, she was DONE teaching her daughter. "It's the school's responsibility after that."

Most of us were just shocked - including the teacher. One gentleman from an auto factory asked, "Don't you think it somewhat IRONIC that you'd give up teaching your own daughter in order to teach other people's children?"

She didn't.

The conversations after class were really interesting, of course. One of my classmates timidly asked if her background (white and affluent) had any bearing on her beliefs. Since no one was affluent in our class, we didn't know. Our teacher said that he'd run across the philosophy at many a PTO meeting, but never from a teacher.

Randolph Carter

Modernity has had the strange consequence of making people completely and totally apathetic to reality. Modern man more and more feels the need to retreat from what he sees as a bleak and hopeless universe into more interesting imaginary universes created after his own heart, and in his own image.

I think that one of the root causes of this phenomenon (though by far not the only one) is our contemporary educational system, which is designed to choke the wonder out of the minds of children and make even the most phenomenal of real-life occurrences seem mind-shatteringly boring. I, too, was a victim of the American Public School System; there was a time when I actually believed that things like World War II and atomic fission were the most boring things in the world. Thankfully I have progressed beyond that, now.

However, I'm not sure that knowledge of these political games that people play -- things having to do with districts and elections and judges and World Toilet Summits -- is superior in any way to knowledge of far less substantial, but far more beautiful, fictional works. So what if you can name every vice president in U.S. history, or every state capital, or the names of all the national parks? I've known people who can name all of the Vala from The Silmarillion, or all of the members of house Atreides from Dune, or the entire cast of the original Star Trek, or all the people who played various aspects of Darth Vader from STAR WARS, or name all the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and people who could recite all of the alien races from Babylon 5. Good for them. And whatsmore, I think that the above mentioned geeky franchises all stand a chance of being remembered long after Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been forgotten.

As for me, it may be a small concession that while I might have a hard time naming all 12 apostles -- much to my shame -- at least I can't recite any of the above lists, and I'm not about to go around beating anybody up for not being able to do one and not the other.


So now that there's a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court, why hasn't Roe v. Wade been overturned?

Perhaps because one of the Catholics is Anthony Kennedy.

Brian John Schuettler

That was exactly Augustine's slightly sarcastic point. Just because someone is baptised a Catholic does not make them a Catholic in their adult life. It is their choice of movement toward the light or away...and that is why having a so-called "Catholic Majority" on the Court does not equal the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

David B.


If you'e heard Alito, he doesn't exactly sound like another Kennedy.

Brian John Schuettler

Yes, Alito. One can only hope, David B.!

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