Another Vanishing U.S. Trait: Common Sense

By Pat Murphy
Idaho Mountain Express
April 1, 2009

It's widely and ruefully accepted that Americans have slipped in academic achievement and general knowledge. The phenom even has a catchy name—"dumbing down of America."

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute illustrated the point in a 33-question quiz among 2,500 citizens, including elected officials and college grads. Alas, 1,700 failed, with average "F" scores of 49 percent. Is it surprising that twice as many knew Paula Abdul is an "American Idol" judge as knew that Lincoln's memorable "government of the people" phrase is from the Gettysburg Address?

Something else more vital to the American culture is also slipping away—innate common sense.

Country folks call it gumption and horse sense. Common sense is the power to use simple logic when faced with everyday situations requiring an instinctive understanding of right and wrong, good and bad. It's the power to reason with our noggins. Many of earliest America's greatest accomplishments grew out of common sense rather than book learning of pioneers who seeded great expanses of the country with culture and enterprise.

Much of America's industrial might had its roots among common-sense inventors.

Last week, the Dallas police chief condemned one of his officers for lacking "common sense" when he stopped, detained and threatened an NFL player in a hospital parking lot for rolling through a red light, even as the man's mother-in-law was dying inside the hospital a few yards away. Giving a gun, badge and authority to someone without common sense is in itself lacking common sense.

Also in Texas, 68-year-old former Catholic priest Thomas Teczar was convicted (again) for sexually abusing a child—and sentenced to 50 years, twice the original sentence he appealed. Here's a prelate that lacked common sense when he preyed on children and then when he gambled on a second trial and lost big

Sheer stupidity is involved in teenage "sexting"—sending nude photo of themselves and others over cell phones. Prosecutors say teens could face prison for distributing pornography.

Teens showing no common sense are foolishly and childishly committing to Internet archives personal information that'll have adverse lifelong consequences on their careers and private lives.

Wealthy investors who foolishly fell for swindler Bernard Madoff's spiel about impossible investment profits and handed over their life's savings exercised utterly no common sense.

And what can be said of thousands of young people who throw away their lives with killer drugs such as meth, after all the dire, common-sense warnings about the fate that awaits them in prison—or in a grave?


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