So, notwithstanding Marc Andreessen's (of Netscape fame) recently announced "death watch" campaign against print media, the NYT in particular, I have valued the highly edited version I get to see. This week I've been struck by the harmonious resonance of several short reports which I'll post on over the coming days. Here's the first:
In the US Knowledge Loses Its Luster
In short, people just don't think that this knowledge matters. In 2006 a poll found that nearly half of 18-24 year olds thought it unimportant to know where countries in the news are located. Only 23% could locate Iraq, Iran and Israel despite dominating the news and political agenda over recent years.
My immediate reaction is to defend these young Americans as I would say that not many Europeans could place many of the states that make up the US. And perhaps more importantly, what awareness do we all really have of the rapidly growing economies of India and China outside of a few major cities?
Jacoby partly blames a failing education system saying "although people are going to school more and more years, there is no evidence they know more".
This is interesting as maybe it's not as important to know these facts when you can look it up at the point of need, even fly in on a specific place in the world with Google Earth. When I need to know, I can easily get to the answer. Indeed, if you define learning as traditional education, then may be too much is a dangerous thing in this new networked, globalised world we live in.
The second trend of anti-rationalism is perhaps more worrying. However in a world which is changing at an ever increasing pace, in many respects the concept of fact being a static concept begins to weaken. What you knew to be true yesterday may not be true today. With such shifting sands, it's no wonder that evaluating the prevailing opinion is a more practical skill than vainly holding onto facts that may be irrelevant before you get a chance to apply it.
So what do you think? Does knowledge matter? Are these trends of real concern?