Two Realities

In “Epilogue” by Richard D. Brown, he examines the necessity and importance of an informed citizenry. He transitions between expressing sentiments that the US is destined for a future where the current, ignorant generation will ruin the country and the idea that the people in our society are actually prepared to run the country, despite our cynical notions of modern intellectual America. It is interesting to see the transformation his paper undergoes in regards to quotations (heavy in the beginning) and conclusiveness (not so much at the end).

He begins with they typical condemnation of modern America as a “Nation of Nitwits”, harnessing a common bleak perception of the country’s future in the hands of our youth who apparently are scholastically inferior to their predecessors. He touts a “cultural illiteracy” as the potential downfall of the nation as there will be no one to administer the country and its values if they do not have the adequate the education to prepare them for such a role. Brown then turns to the idea that “American workers are in the world’s upper echelon for productivity” which he ascertains must count for something in a world where time is money and the measuring stick for nations is GDP not happiness or any other type of immaterial determinant. At this point, his credibility wanes as he uses sweeping phrases such as, “most people recognize that American society…” Which type of people is he referencing? Is he going for an international perspective or is he just focusing on the self-awareness of Americans? I am not a fan of ambiguous writing among historians especially when it is a means for an argument.

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in his argumentation when he claims that Americans during America’s early republic were “comparatively well informed because they read newspapers and books and paid closer attention to political contests than they do.” He asserts that people at this golden age prioritized academic pursuit and knowledgeable pursuits in favor of the frivolities that modern Americans indulge in. He later claims that the people in that age however were often manipulated by politicians who thought “people want information and are constantly liable to be misled.” It is a reversal from his previous theory that Americans centuries ago were sufficiently educated to make decisions for the government and posterity. Apparently, politicians were pretty “dirty” figures, as he labels them, centuries ago as well.

This week Michael wrote about how the “talking heads” of society are put on a pedestal for the common man in contrast to the early America. I agree that the concept of individual common citizens making up their mind without the intervention of a politician would be liberating. The need for a sovereign electorate free from the entrapments of modern media and what Brown mentions as “talk radio” inhibit the populace’s ability to educate themselves and form their own opinions without interference from an outside source. The modern world does pose many distractions which may factor into Brown’s fear of the future.