A refugee from Stupidville, Indiana?
Had I been drinking coffee, I would have spit it out. Had I been eating pudding, things really would have gotten messy.
There, on an obscure news Web site I visit each day, was a headline that brought my mind to a jarring halt.
“Fort Wayne, Indiana, voted America’s dumbest town.”
Now, I realize, this probably doesn’t mean much to you. When I mention Fort Wayne, most people ask if that’s closer to Houston or Dallas.
But you probably didn’t spend the formative years of your professional life there, analyzing and digesting political news for a population now being classified as the nation’s most buffoonish.
I largely learned my craft in Fort Wayne, I met my wife in Fort Wayne, and I learned a lot about the Midwestern way of life in Fort Wayne.
Now comes Men’s Health magazine, which recently published a list of cities ranked by intelligence. Minneapolis came in first, with San Francisco at No. 6. But on the other end of the scale, the dumb-o-meter, Fort Wayne sailed past Las Vegas and Laredo, Texas, to claim the nation’s dunce cap.
Supposedly the study was based on a formula that included bachelor’s degrees per capita, residents’ SAT scores, etc. But I’m still staggered by my old stomping grounds’ ranking. I mean, I came up through the Alabama public school system. If there’s stupid to be seen, I have partaken.
Suddenly, some visions from Fort Wayne appear in my mind. Each Christmas, families gather in a downtown parking lot to stare in awe at the old Santa light display from a department store that long ago ceased to exist. Santa doesn’t do anything. Just glows. And it’s a packed parking lot.
Then there was the long-standing theory that a tornado couldn’t hit Fort Wayne because it was built at the joining of three rivers. That myth got busted the hard way a few years back.
But no, I must stay strong in my convictions. This ranking is just a sensationalist ploy by a magazine whose advertising would evaporate if permanent cures were found for baldness, impotence and obesity.
Still, when people ask why I moved to this part of the Sierra foothills, I find myself often describing the area as “intelligent.” Obviously, we have our weak spots, as are often pointed out in the Police Blotter. But we’ve also got a whole bevy of truly amazing minds. Just about any random conversation I have around Nevada City or Grass Valley is more enlightening than a few hours of cable TV punditry.
For a good case in point, see Monday’s Learning Page, C1, about Don Machholz, the Colfax amateur astronomer who has discovered 10 – count ’em, 10 – comets. His most recent, which officially bears his name, is currently visible to the naked eye.
In the end, I guess each community is only as smart as it feels. That Men’s Health article has galvanized Fort Wayne in a way that city officials could never have accomplished.
What about you? Would you rank us alongside Boston, Seattle and San Diego – apparently the urban beacons of intelligence? Or are we more in line with the reportedly dimwitted Newark, N.J., and Greensboro, N.C.?
Drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or just send an old-fashioned letter to let us know what you think. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to figure out that child-safety lock on my kitchen cabinets. I’m going on the third month now.
I got some great comments from last week’s column, which also touched on stupidity, in a way. I had written about the Fox40 TV station’s insistence we let readers know when they’re coming to town.
Reader Jorge Velasquez, who works with Sacramento’s KCRA news team, said I painted his industry with too wide of a brush. “I can assure you we (KCRA) don’t make it a habit to hound local papers for coverage,” he wrote.
He’s right, and I feel I should point out that KCRA has often come to town for stories and shown admirable respect for our communities. Sadly, it often feels they are the exception, not the rule.
David Griner is interim managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com or 477-4230.
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