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Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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Dumbness Survey....

Dumbness Survey

According to an article in the local paper, southern states are some of the dumbest states, ranking in the bottom 10 of 50 states in a survey about education.

Oh, please! Do we really need a survey to tell us how dumb we are? Actually, we have always done a pretty good job of maintaining our reputation of dumb, hillbilly, redneck, good olí boys without any survey folks from Kansas sticking their noses into it.

It seems that the way these surveys measure dumbness is by how much money a state spends on public and secondary education. Tennessee was on the bottom of the pile according to the percentage spent per amount of personal income, ranking all the way at the bottom.

Maine, Yankee territory for sure, is deemed to be the smartest state because they spend more money than any other state on education. Now to my way of thinking at least, it just might be that it takes more to money to educate a hardheaded Yankee, but they didnít even consider that possibility.

If you spend a whole bunch of money per pupil on education, it just stands to reason that students will learn more according to most peopleís logic. If the three Rís are any indicator, the survey folks may be right since we are near the bottom on two of the three Rís and low on the other R, writing.

Money spent on education, however, is certainly not the only indicator of how dumb or smart a population is. There are so many other factors to consider with education, for example, teacher dedication, innate learning ability, motivation to learn and parent's involvement in education, to
mention a few.

Some folks seem to think the way to measure dumbness of the south is not by the amount of money spent on education, but by other things, such as the amount of personal income spent on pickup trucks, the ratio of people vs. coon dogs, whether people listen to country music or public radio, or even how many people still have their natural teeth.

Now for those of you who are laughing up your sleeve, donít laugh too loud. There were four other southern states in the bottom ten keeping Tennessee company, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alabama. You are probably nodding your head in agreement that these states are pretty dumb too.

Well, explain this. Western states also turned out as pretty dumb, with California, New Mexico, and Arizona also apparently spending less on education than their eastern counterparts. The other two, and last of the cheap spenders in our bottom ten list, are Alaska and Hawaii.

Remember, we are not talking about total amount of money spent here, but the amount spent relative to personal income. Unfortunately, there is only so much money in the pot and sometimes states choose to spend it on other needs, such as healthcare for the residents or social services. Does that really make us as dumb as the survey would suggest or merely indicate that some states have other priorities or necessities?

Besides, even if we are dumb, so what? The south has lived with this image for long that we have learned to capitalize on it and make it into an asset. Fact is the redneck image, car racing, football and the country music industry are some of our biggest assets, bringing in big bucks to the new south.

We have learned to do more with less out of necessity. Great strides have been made in economic development, industries love our lower taxes, and Yankees just canít seem to leave the cold north and move to the sunny south fast enough.

I think we are just not quite as dumb as some surveys would have people believe.

Copyright 2004 Sheila Moss

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