There's an interesting article from the NY Times called "Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge," concerning the dumbing down of America. Simple things like locating Iran on a map, or -- for the love of humanity -- knowing that HUNGARY is a country, are used as examples.
I'm in the boat where I feel like I can never know enough -- that I can never read or hear or see enough. I'm a glutton for words and books, for culture. I'm dying to learn more and always feel a step (or eighty) behind. But it's just sad that people are caught in this intensely stupid and stubborn lurch: they're either horribly misinformed, uninformed, believe that opinion is fact and vice versa, or just believe that generally "knowing shit" is unimportant. When you place education at the bottom of the totem pole, your country may not show signs of it immediately -- but it will show -- and how. The socialization of knowledge that's happened since the internet has become more commonplace has its positives and negatives: on one hand, people feel open to contribute, and the exchange of information is easier than ever.
On the other hand, a lot of people are dumb.
I'm not saying I'm awesomely smart, or that the aura of my knowledge overwhelms all who surround me, but I know enough to know that I know (relatively) nothing at all. People who can't spell or pronounce "Shiite" or "nuclear" probably shouldn't be talking about such things until they maybe do something like, say, read.
The first time I read the inscription on the north side of the main Boston Public Library building in Copley Square, I was smitten. It says: "THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY." How amazing a thought is that? I love it! We live in a country that (ideally), embraces knowledge over ignorance, thereby over fear... I wish people would just grab hold of that simple thought.
It's a lovely thing, thought.