Quetzal. Know what it means? If you’re a Scrabble player, you might. Thursday is National Scrabble Day, which reminds me how much pleasure being a Scrabble nerd has given me since childhood__and how stupid we’ve become as a nation.
Sure, some words are a waste of time to learn. Did you know that “za” is a legit word, slang meaning pizza? Did anyone ever asked for a slice of za?
But building vocabulary is important, and a thirst for knowledge even more so. Love of learning has always been a cornerstone of American innovation and world leadership.
Unfortunately, we also have a parallel history of anti-intellectualism, and it’s getting worse. “Idiot America” author Charles Pierce wrote “the rise of Idiot America today represents…the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is good.”
It’s no accident that the majority of students at New York City’s elite public schools Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are Asian immigrants, or the children of immigrants. Meanwhile, the children of Indian-American immigrants dominate the National Spelling Bee
When American basketball stars Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal recently insisted that the world is flat, many howled with laughter. But too many of those chuckling scoff at other settled science. Our most watched news network, Fox News, regularly mocks climate change science, and has even suggested “fair and balanced” teaching of evolution to include creationism.
Hey, why not also have flat earth proponents present their case in American classrooms? After all, those who have fallen off the edge of the earth can’t speak for themselves, right?
Pierce was inspired to write Idiot America at the Creation Museum of Kentucky, which displays a dinosaur wearing a saddle. But this isn’t about a war between religious fundamentalists and scientists: it’s about glorifying ignorance.
President Trump has called global warming “a hoax, created by the Chinese.” At last week’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the subject was scrupulously avoided. In the battle to save the planet, America is going AWOL. It’s flat-out embarrassing.
Oh, and quetzal? It’s a brightly colored species of tropical bird. But don’t worry about learning the word__it may become extinct if global warming remains unchecked. Talk about angry birds!