“Raleigh is one of the country’s smartest cities,” exclaimed my honey, reading from the computer. “They are one of the four cities in the U.S. with the most educated people,” he continued. “It says so right here in the Yahoo news.”
“Oh, yeah? If they are so smart then why do they smoke so much?” I asked. Sometimes my mouth is faster than my brain. When I think of Raleigh, Durham, or Winston-Salem, I tend to think of cigarette manufacturing and assume that people consume what they make.
It seems, however, that cigarette smoking fell into disfavor and cigarette manufacturers fell into hard times. So cities like Raleigh reinvented themselves and became technology and healthcare centers drawing from nearby universities like the University of North Carolina and Duke.
As it turns out, North Carolina is not even one of the states with the most smokers, at least not according the statistics I was able to find. So much for that theory.
“So what city is the number one smartest city?” I wanted to know.
It’s Washington, D.C. The smartest people in the country are the ones running the country. That was reassuring for a while, until I realized it is not necessarily the politicians that are smart, it is the contractors, lobbyists, and lawyers, those attempting to influence the policy makers. Washington attracts people with degrees because they are the ones trying to change government.
Of course, I then wondered about my city. We have never been especially known for having the smartest people in the world in Tennessee, and constantly fight our redneck image. Nashville was not on the list of the ten smartest cites, just as I figured. However, it was not on the list of the ten least smartest either, those with the lowest education – but Memphis was.
Strangely, at least to me, places like Las Vegas and Orlando were also low on the scale of people with higher education. It seems that these are cities that cater to tourists and draw lower-educated people to work in less skilled jobs. The smart people are those who visit, but not those who stay.
Nashville is somewhere in between. On one hand we are an entertainment Mecca, drawing tourists in with the country music business. On the other, we are a healthcare and research center with large universities. Before we were Music City, we were the Athens of the South. Maybe we are somewhere in between now, maintaining a balance.
But there is still that troublesome tobacco thing. Southern states tend to have the most smokers and Tennessee is right there among them, puffing away, with even more tobacco users than North Carolina. Washington, of course, ranks pretty low in tobacco usage.
I don’t know why I read and get caught up in these studies. Do they really mean anything? They simply show with numbers what we know or suspect to be true anyhow. And if the numbers vary, there is always an explanation of why.
But, if the politicians are not making the statistics for education climb in Washington, I would feel much better if it was the Department of Defense, rather than lobbyists and lawyers.
Copyright 2010 Sheila Moss