Monday, October 15, 2012
Is D.C. the Best-Educated Big City in America?
If, like me, you spend a lot of time shaking your head at the ludicrous antics of Congress in general and many of its individual members in particular*, you may be surprised at this article from the October 10th issue of the Washington Post - Study: D.C. Is the Best-Educated Big City in America.
Yes, Dear Readers, as counterintuitive as it may often seem, the population of the Washington, DC metro area is - according to a study conducted for First 5 LA - better educated than the population of any other city in America of comparable size. While DC public schools are not considered to be very good, the metro area benefits from the presence of suburbs with excellent school systems and from a large population of highly-educated employees of the federal government and the many corporations and think tanks that are headquartered in the area.
I know from personal experience that there are a lot of really brilliant people working in the government and the vast array of organizations and businesses that support it. I marvel every day at the quality of the people with whom I am privileged to work and with whom I can exchange ideas. But I also know from routine experience that "level of education" does not always equal "level of practical, applied smarts." A look at our hopelessly dysfuctional Congress and at the corruption-ridden DC city government clearly shows that.
Education, when not leavened by common sense and practical applicability, not only is not very useful, but can be downright dangerous. The sage who first said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing knew whereof he spoke.
This reminds me of a very interesting talk I once heard by General Al Gray, the crusty former Commandant of the Marine Corps. In it, he said that he liked to use the "7-11 Test" for ideas presented to him ... that is, if he thought a proposed idea would make sense to an average person buying a coffee or a Big Gulp at the local 7-11, it probably had merit.
I think Congress would be wise to use some form of General Gray's 7-11 test, rather than relying on "unbiased studies" done by well-educated policy wonks at obscurely-named organizations with hidden agendas, or on telephone surveys of carefully-selected people designed to produce a desired result.
A good education is a gift to be treasured, and a truly well-educated person is one who understands how little he really knows.
And by that yardstick, there aren't very many well-educated persons in DC.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* I'm thinking about Republican Representative Paul Broun of Georgia - a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, no less - who recently said, "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." I think we're in trouble.