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CARROLL: America must aim at getting smarter
David Carroll
David Carroll is a news anchor for WRCB in Chattanooga, Tenn.

If you haven’t visited a school in recent years, you would be amazed at what you’ll find. Most of them, even in rural and low-income areas are awash in technology. Some provide computers or personal research tablet devices for each student. Everything one needs to know is just a click away.

So America has to be getting smarter, right? Let’s talk about that.

Shifting into grouchy old man mode, I think back to my 1970s school days. When we got to see an educational film in the classroom, it was an event. If the projector was working, and if the pull-down screen wasn’t broken, we could learn all about the human digestive system. (My teacher referred to one ailment as “dia-rear,” but that’s another story).

Now there’s no need for a projector or screen. Google and YouTube have got it covered.

Our eyes got wide when our school introduced an overhead projector. This high-tech device enabled the teacher’s hand-written notes to appear on the big screen. It was if a spaceship had landed. What was next? A robot vacuum cleaner? Don’t be silly.

For reference, we had World Book encyclopedia sets, most of which were outdated. Every few years the school would buy a new set, which would usually end up in the star teacher’s classroom. The old set would be handed down to another teacher, like a pair of worn-out jeans.

In 1997 I visited a low-performing school in Chattanooga for a news story. The school’s most recent encyclopedia set was from 1962. That same year, I would see politicians pounding their desks, looking for someone to blame for low academic scores.

That school now has access to every modern learning tool. Yet its state report card ranking has barely budged.

So the technology is in place, and teachers are doing their best. As an education reporter, I’ve covered countless superintendents and school board members touting their long term goals. Five year plans, 10-year plans, and capital improvement projects that have produced sparkling new buildings. No one can deny that some brilliant students have graduated, and moved on to prestigious universities and rewarding careers. Vocational programs have produced skilled workers who are making good money.

But overall, as a nation, are we really smarter than a half-century ago? Are we sending brighter, more effective representatives to Washington and our state capitals? Are we electing better educated, reasonable people to serve us in local government? Do they study the issues, and offer coherent explanations for their positions? Judging from recent headlines, these are fair questions.

Rioters put up a makeshift gallows with a noose, smearing human waste on the walls of the U.S. Capitol, and some of our leaders refer to the scene as “normal tourists” engaging in “legitimate political discourse.”

The current administration refers to a reporter with legitimate questions as a “wise guy,” and its spokespeople dance the sidestep when challenged on inflation or the dangerous situation in Ukraine.

The Associated Press finds it necessary to provide a lengthy compilation of “What Didn’t Happen This Week.” They attempt to cut through the lies that are spread on various platforms. This includes so-called news channels, social media sites and other breeding grounds of false information. In an effort to prove you can’t believe everything you see, they reveal the truth about altered photographs. I can photoshop my head on The Rock’s body, but my doctor is no fool. He knows I need to cut back on Krispy Kremes.

I worry about our young people. Despite the access they have to devices my generation could have never imagined, they’re ill-equipped to battle the lies and deception. 

A few schools are finally offering media literacy classes to help students separate fact from fiction. Let’s accelerate that process. Otherwise they might actually believe Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet,” just because they read it on the internet.

We are always advised to “consider the source,” and now we must learn which sources to avoid. Much like your local buffet restaurant, we have too many choices, and it’s tempting to grab what we want, instead of what we need.

How can we tone down our nation’s anger, stubbornness, and rising blood pressure? Just say “no” to those who aim to divide us. The truth is out there. Let’s aim at being smarter.

David Carroll is a Chattanooga TV news anchor.  You may contact him at