Americans were shocked to read last week that a recent survey of teenagers showed they were completely ignorant of how the Americans government operates as well as who is in charge.
Some of the findings: Fewer than half could name one of their senators or their representatives in the House. About a third did not know a senator was elected. More than a third didn't believe a newspaper should be allowed to publish criticism of elected officials. A fourth didn't know that the Senate is part of the Congress. A third didn't know that the Consitution outlines their civil rights.
While this is very revealing as to where teenagers' heads are these days, another survey taken at the same time came up with some even more frightening data. In interviews with 150,000 people over 35 years of age, the study showed the ignorance of Americans in the middle and older age groups when it came to the really important national issues.
For example, while 70 percent of those questioned knew that Guy Lombardo had died, only 25 percent were aware that although Elvis Presley has passed away, he still lives in the hearts of his fans through a multi-million-dollar souvenir business. Although for all intents and purposes he is gone, Elvis will still outsell President Carter on a magazine cover.
Only 15 percent of those questioned knew the difference between Laverne and Shirley.
Less than a third of senior citizens over 65 had any knowledge that Burt Reynolds was now dating actress Sally Field, who is now only 31 years old.
Harvey Rothmere, a teenager who had taken the survey, said the ignorance of grownups when it came to rock music was appalling.
"Less than 2 percent knew that one of the Sex Pistols had O'Ded on a plane from L.A. to New York."
"What's a Sex Pistol?" I asked.
"There you have it," Harvey said. "That's one of the reasons why grownups have no idea what's going on. You media people are not doing your job. The Sex Pistols are a punk rock group from England."
"What's a punk rock group?" I asked.
"It's people who play punk rock, and do sickening things on the stage that make you want to wretch."
"Beautiful," I said. "What does punk rock have to do with our generation?"
"What does the Senate have to do with ours?" Harvey retorted. "If you don't know Johnny Rotten, why should we know the name of our congressman.?"
"Well you should at least know something about the Consitution," I said.
"We don't have time. We have to keep up with Cher's divorce from Greg Allman. You grownups think we're stupid just because we don't know the name of the vice president of the United States. But can anyone over 35 name the last six women Mick Jagger has taken to a disco club?"
"You owe it to your country to know something about how your government is run," I protested.
Harvey was really hostile. "Suppose you did know the name of your senator. What good would it do you?"
"Well you could write to him about how you feel on the issues of the day."
"And then what?"
"He could write you back thanking you for your letter."
"T'd rather get an autographed photo of Lee Majors."
"Who's Lee Majors?" I wanted to know.
"I don't believe it. He's Farrah Fawcett's husband. No wonder your generation can't make it on Social Security."