3We're Getting More Tolerant
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Yes, America is a country in which half a dozen states still celebrate Confederate History Month, dedicated to the memory of a government founded on the principle that God ordained one race of people to enslave another race of people. And yes, every few months a racially charged story will dominate headlines (see: Trayvon Martin), so maybe it's not too surprising that nearly half the country believes race relations are getting worse. Hell, just read the YouTube comments under any video that has a black person in it. Or even better, don't.
Best feature they ever came up with.
The Good News:
If compared to an ideal world free of prejudice, the current state of things is a shameful walrus orgy of a disaster. If compared to the actual world at any point in the past, things look pretty fucking good.
For example, in 2013, 87 percent of Americans surveyed approved of interracial marriage. Just 50 years ago, over 90 percent of Americans disapproved. And while only 8 percent of U.S. marriages are between members of different races, that happens to be an all-time high. And, despite its reputation as a bastion of backward rednecks, Americans are more likely to accept neighbors of different races than are the citizens of most other countries.
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We're looking at you, Germany.
"Well that's great, but what about gay marriage? That's still illegal in most of the country." That's true, and opinion polls are split right at 50-50, depending on whose polling you trust. But while half the country opposing a person's right to contractually chain him- or herself to another seems like bad news, you again have to see how far we've come -- that 50 percent approval is up by over 20 percent from the mid-1990s alone. That's a huge turnaround just since the Clinton years.
This is evidently all because of the kids. Most measurable indicators suggest that the younger generations responsible for our future are increasingly tolerant and open-minded (perhaps it's all the weed?). Maybe people can change. Or, more likely, old bigots aren't immortal and are replaced with more tolerant infants every day. Either way, the arrow is pointing up.
It doesn't matter if it's in the will: "Carry on my legacy of hate" isn't an enforceable request.
2Literacy Is at an All-Time High
Seriously, who the hell reads anymore? Go break into a random teenager's room and you won't expect to see a single book, right up until the moment the SWAT team hauls you away. The kids these days always have their hands full with an iPhone, an iPad, or a game controller. Angry Birds and Candy Crush have replaced Tolstoy and Hemingway. However you want to say it, people don't read anymore, because there's an app for that, and it's called movies, TV, and porn.
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On the upside, there's no longer a need for Sex Ed classes.
The Good News:
First, we need to point out that we live in the most literate world ever. Currently, about 99 percent of American adults can read and write. But that's America -- a better question would be how the rest of the world is doing. The answer is also pretty impressive. Take India, for example, and its 1.2 billion people. Fifty years ago, only 18 percent of them could have enjoyed the Twilight saga. Today, over 60 percent of the country can enjoy literature's greatest love story. Worldwide as a whole, that figure is 84 percent.
So what are people doing with these new reading powers? At least one survey suggests that nearly twice as many Americans are reading novels today compared to 60 years ago. Unlike the imaginary ideal 1950s living room, Mom and Pop weren't seated 'round the fire exchanging copies of the New Yorker and ruminating on the works of Fitzgerald or Steinbeck. In reality, they were probably listening to the radio and talking about how great segregation is.
Knitting white power propaganda into doilies.
Oh, and those kids with their noses buried in some Internet-capable gadget? They're not just playing games and watching One Direction videos -- they're reading. Hell, how could a site like Cracked ever get this popular otherwise? Somebody's reading this stuff, we're sure of it. And you know what else they're doing? Writing. At a mind-boggling rate. Posts on Facebook, Tumblr, message boards, Twitter -- it all adds up to what they call the "new literacy." Think about it -- for most of recent history, written communication like that was reserved for the classroom. When our ancestors left school, only a tiny fraction ever wrote anything again besides the occasional letter, so English classes were thought of in much the same light as calculus classes today -- a bunch of crap that most of us will never need again. Not so now.
All of that practice -- informal as it is -- really adds up. And given the need for brevity in texts and on Twitter, many of us are almost capable of concisely articulating ourselves.
"u r teh nice show boobz 2 me plz lol"