Jimmy Kimmel has this recurring bit on his show wherein he sends out a cameraman to talk to regular folks on the street, typically with the purpose of catching these folks in the act of not knowing something that we have all decided everyone is supposed to know. We laugh at these plebes from the comfort of our couches while discreetly looking up the answers to Kimmel’s questions on our phones.
As you can probably tell from my tone, I am not a huge fan of these sketches. They cherry-pick the most embarrassing answers and presumably leave the people who get the questions right on the cutting room floor.
But Kimmel’s latest is offensive in a way that it would be irresponsible to ignore. Kimmel has committed stoner slander.
If your feeling is “TL;DW” then allow me to summarize: avowed enjoyers of pot are each asked one question about basic civics — to name a Supreme Court justice, for instance — and then one question about marijuana-themed culture, like the star of Pineapple Express. Obviously no one knows anything about the government but everybody is all in on Seth Rogen. This is a travesty, as Kimmel explains in the intro: we should be concerned that the marijuana industry is getting so engaged in the political process, because regular smokers don’t even follow politics.
There’s just one thing: stoners are not the only Americans who don’t know anything about how the American government works. Americans don’t know anything about how the American government works.
A national study (of 1,416 adults) conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that, in fact, many Americans struggle “when it comes to answering basic questions about how their government works.”
Some findings from the study, released two weeks ago:
“While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one. Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5–4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration.”
As convenient as it would be to dismiss the people who are pro-pot, that wouldn’t actually solve the problem of government illiteracy across our citizenry. The joke is that we shouldn’t be listening to the kind of people who want to legalize marijuana: they’re all idiots, they’re just stoners. But that’s just an easy way to write off a group of people that, it seems, aren’t necessarily any less educated on matters of policy than the rest of the population. Apparently it’s not just the weed-loving crowd that’s a little rusty on their Schoolhouse Rock. As a public service, here you go: