For years, West Virginians have been told that, collectively, we are obese and in poor health.
Recently, residents of Huntington and Charleston have been informed that they live in the most miserable cities in the United States.
Then just this past week, West Virginians were recognized for living in the dumbest state in the nation.
The title was handed to us by TheStreet, a financial news website founded by Jim Cramer and Martin Peretz: http://www.thestreet.com/story/12712489/1/the-10-dumbest-states-in-america.html[/embed]
Up until this week, I’d never heard of TheStreet, but I’m sure those who work there would take my ignorance as just another example of “dumb” West Virginians. That’s the same reason I hesitate to mention that I was raised to use the term dumb as an adjective to describe those who don’t speak. I’m sure they’d counter that the dictionary also defines it as “lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.”
What the dictionary doesn’t do is define dumb as “anyone who doesn’t have a college degree,” which is exactly what the folks at TheStreet did. They also assessed median household income and SAT scores to support their pronouncement.
I’m not sure what their scorecard was supposed to contribute to society, but I can tell you that all it really did was serve as another example of bullying: an attempt by a person or group to feel superior by making others feel inferior through name calling and belittlement.
But here’s what the people of this Wall Street entity don’t get: West Virginians aren’t generally bothered by people who think they are better than us. And even though some individuals will always believe perception is reality, I like to believe this latest slam on West Virginia is a teaching opportunity for our children.
Yes, this is obviously an occasion to emphasize the importance of education and how it directly correlates with income and financial stability. But it’s so much more than that.
We can discuss how generations of West Virginians had good-paying, blue-collar jobs that didn’t require a college education. While the availability of such jobs shrunk dramatically in the last few decades, expectations and culture have taken longer to change.
We can talk about the different types of intelligence, and how different people have different skill sets. Not everyone is good at reading and math, but they can be very gifted in art or music. And as we talk, we should also note that there is an immense difference between someone’s IQ and his/her ability to take a test.
Most of all, we need to emphasize that being poor has nothing to do with being stupid or lazy. Throughout history, some of our nation’s poorest people are often the most hard working: They juggle working multiple jobs to pay for their basic needs or pick up extra dollars by shoveling driveways or mowing grass.
I’m not trying to imply that West Virginia doesn’t have issues that need to be addressed, and I am a strong advocate of education and attracting businesses that provide solid employment opportunities to the Mountain State. But that’s not enough. We need to advocate for all that is right with this state and not allow others to highlight our problems without promoting the good.
Most importantly, we need to raise children who are proud of where they come from and the people they represent.
And I’m positive that there are enough wise people in West Virginia to accomplish just that.