AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS: NO. 1?
No concept lies more firmly embedded in our national character than the notion that the USA is "No. 1," "the greatest." Our broadcast media are, in essence, continuous advertisements for the brand name "America Is No. 1." Any office seeker saying otherwise would be committing political suicide. In fact, anyone saying otherwise will be labeled "un-American." We’re an "empire," ain’t we? Sure we are. An empire without a manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is ineradicable. We’re No. 1. Well…this is the country you really live in:
• The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
• The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
• "The International Adult Literacy Survey…found that Americans with less than nine years of education ‘score worse than virtually all of the other countries’" (Jeremy Rifkin’s superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
• Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
• "The European Union leads the U.S. in…the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
• "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
• Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).
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