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Opinion: American ignorance runs rampant despite technology

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By Tom Hanlon

 

Recently, I watched a news segment in which a reporter asked random United States citizens what they thought of the Ebola crisis in Africa. 

Astounded, I listened to citizen after citizen either ask the reporter what Ebola is, say they thought it was great, obviously clueless about the disease, or stare blankly off into space.

While this does not represent the majority of Americans it shows that there are a striking number of people in this country who don’t know anything about what is happening in this world beyond the screens of their smartphones. The outcome of these types of interviews is nothing new, but it should make one’s blood boil every time one is released.

 When I think about these ignorant people voting and that their vote can affect my future, I am frightened for my generation. 

What makes the situation even more unbelievable is that millions of Americans have instant information at the touch of a button yet ignorance runs rampant. 

Newsweek distributed a study, which asked 1,000 Americans to take the U.S. citizenship test. Of those participants, 29 percent did not know who the vice president was, 43 percent could not define the Bill of Rights and an amazing 40 percent did not know that the United States fought Japan and Germany in the Second World War.

Although smartphones, computers and the Internet have made acquiring information easier, I believe they contribute to the diminishing knowledge Americans have about their country and the state of the world. 

Programs such as Facebook and Instagram glorify self-absorption by enabling users to brag about their lives and post “selfies” — which by the very name are selfish in nature. Commercials tell us that we “deserve” a product, or that it’s all about us fulfilling a desire, when in reality it’s all about company profits. When people are so focused on themselves and not on the well being of their country, they won’t use their smartphone to look up facts about the government, they’ll want to see how many “likes” their Instagram post received. 

I realize that I am pointing out what has already been stated by numerous figures in the media, but these are realities that need to be repeated until this country wakes up. No one can deny that there is something gravely wrong in America. Anyone who does deny this falls into the category of an ignorant American. 

I just turned 18 years old and I will be voting for the first time on Nov. 4. I am educating myself on the different candidates and their positions on local and statewide issues. 

We live in the information age and we should be informing ourselves about current events, the way our government works and the things happening in the world we live in. 

As James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

If we don’t arm ourselves with knowledge, America will cease to be free and we will wonder what happened to her because we were too busy admiring the “selfie” we just posted.