Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Spending Money Makes You Smart...Apparently....

So, as is my habit, I was listening to the news this morning. Mr. Weatherman had his usual vague report. It might rain tonight! Or...it might not. So, obviously, that's not terribly helpful. However, I'm getting used to it and it just means that I should look out the window periodically to see what the weather's doing. That seems to be the only accurate way of figuring out the weather.

Anyway, this morning, they had a news report on Cincinnati and how it's supposedly a city with one of the "lowest IQ's" in the nation. Out of 56 cities, we rank 42nd.

I say "lowest IQ" in quotation marks because based on the criteria, I'm not so sure it's a very valid poll.

For this study, the criteria is supposed to be the amount of college degrees in the area, the amount of universities and the amount of non-fiction book sales.

Now, as a resident of Cincinnati- according to my zip code, at least- I'm going to take a slight offense to this study. While I concur that there is a certain level of intelligence found in academic cities, I'm not so sure it's the only way to qualify that a place is intelligent.

I'm not even talking street smart vs. book smart. I'm talking just downright intelligence.

Take, for example, a fact that the news report gave, also clearly not happy with Cincinnati's ranking. Last year, something like 15.6 million non-fiction books were checked out of the city's library system.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong but our economy is bad, right? People don't have money to throw around on frivolous things. Stores, entertainment venues, restaurants...they're all trying to find ways to entice frugal consumers to purchase their wares by offering discounts and incentives.

As a writer, I'm going to state outright I feel guilty saying this but I'm sad to say I do believe it: Books are a frivolous purchase, especially to someone trying to save money.

Now, by saying that, I'm not saying that books are a waste of money. They are not. Books are one of the smallest pleasures in life to me. The smell of them, the feel of them, the comfort of them...I'm been over that before in this blog. You know I love books. I love to read them. I love to write them.

I just don't always like to buy them.

It's not that I don't want to but I'm a firm believer in libraries. I think libraries are truly one of the best things on the planet. They're full of lovely books. You can take the lovely books home. If the lovely book sucks, you can take it back. Best of all...libraries are mostly free. Yes, I know, they're supported by tax dollars but I'd much rather give a library my taxes than someone who could get a job and support themselves but can't be bothered because they'd rather live off welfare.

I know, I'm getting political. This is not to say I don't support welfare. I think it's great for people and families who need to find their footing in life. I just think it should have a time limit and more of a qualifying factor. It shouldn't be a way for unmotivated people to be able to buy name-brand bread while those of us who have to work are forced to buy the store-brand stuff. I speak from experience here. Too often have I stood behind someone at Kroger who has a cart full of name-brand stuff who are paying with their food stamps while I'm looking at my cart full of generics and being proud of how much I'm saving. Welfare is necessary and I'm proud to support it...to a certain extent.

Rant over. Back to the libraries. Libraries are awesome. Libraries are fantastic. For many, they're a sanctuary, a place to go to hide among the stacks, to relax, to read, to work. Obviously, I'm not the only person who thinks so since the statistics for library usage in Cincinnati are so high. They've increased dramatically, according the news report, over the last year.

So, tell me, exactly, how does this make Cincinnati a 'low IQ' city? Because the residents are not dumb enough to spend money on books they may only read once? Since when did the amount of money spent on something mean that it was terribly meaningful? I mean look at Stephanie Meyer. Her books aren't exactly, uh, good but she's a millionaire because she knows how to reach the anti-feminist in all of her teen readers. People spend millions of dollars on McDonalds food each year but it doesn't mean it's good food.

You get my point. Sure, non-fiction readers probably are a little more intellectual than, say, a reader of Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steel's books. Yet what's wrong with getting a book from a library? Why does that not count when calculating an IQ? Doesn't this, you know, make us smarter because we're not spending money but finding ways to save?

The point is that it shouldn't matter where a book comes from or who is reading it. People are reading, that's the point. I also dislike the segments on the news that are "Man on the Street," in which the reporters deliberately select interviewees who obviously aren't mensa material and ask them questions about members of Congress. Newsflash: not everyone cares about politics. I know, I know...we should. Yet...aside from their making decisions that affect us, the minutae of such things are a little...boring to some of us. I try to care about politicians and keep the names of the members of Congress in my head but the thing is, they just don't stay there. They're so far removed from my daily life that I forget to remember them. I know who the President, the Vice president and the Speaker of the House are. I even know the Governor of Ohio. Yet...aside from that, I suppose I should know other names but...I don't.

I am aware I'm widening myself up to scorn and derision because I'm supposed to care about these things. Yet, I live in a selfish little bubble in which only things that directly pertain to me or my loved ones registers on my radar unless it interests me. This is why I'd rather read a biography of Green Day or J.K. Rowling than of George Washington or Martin Luther King. I'm a selfish Monkeypants: I'd rather be entertained than informed some days. Not every day, however. There are some things I do take seriously and want to learn about.

Yet, I like to believe just because I don't necessarily ooze intellectual superiority, it doesn't mean I'm dumb. I did not get my Master's degree. I stopped after a Bachelor's because I simply could not take any more school. I admire those that strive for more education. I just don't think I can do it. I had enough after my almost 20 years of solid education. I'd rather be self-educated now. Does this make me less than someone who has a Masters? Maybe. Then again, not all Master's students go because they want to excel: They go because they need that piece of paper to get further and each step is a struggle to make it through. That's not always the case, obviously. Yet it can be the case. I know too many people who've gone back to school because they can't get any further without that piece of paper even though, in the long run, their degree isn't even going to apply in the field in which they end up working.

I'm ranting today; I apologize. I'm not saying I'm right in my thoughts, just that I have them. One thing I can't stand is a generic statement based on random data: "Cincinnati is the 42nd lowest IQ city in the U.S." This is based on black and white facts. As a writer and a person, the nuances of life are far more interesting to me. Sure, it's easy to come up with a result like that but things are never so cut and dried that they can fall so neatly into place.

Of course, it could be worse. I could live in Fresno, the city with the 'lowest IQ' in the U.S. I feel sorry for the intelligent life that lives in Fresno. That has to be a blow. Of course, I have been to Fresno and all I can say is that type of heat in the summer is enough to fry anyone's brain. If it were me, I'd have to hide in a library quite often to cool down. Of course, that wouldn't mean anything. It'd have to be a bookstore to mean anything. And then I'd have to buy a book. A non-fiction one. Because that would mean I was intelligent. Apparently.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Tuesday!

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