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A local college professor’s blog got a mention in the New York Times on Sunday. Mark Rice is the chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College. His blog is called “Ranking America” and he told the Times why he started it in an article about American exceptionalism:

Of course, the reason talking directly about serious American problems is risky is that most voters don’t like it. Mark Rice, who teaches American studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., said students often arrived at his classes steeped in the notion that the United States excelled at everything. He started a blog, Ranking America, to challenge their assumptions with a wild assortment of country comparisons, some sober (the United States is No. 1 in small arms ownership) and others less so (the United States is tied for 24th with Nigeria in frequency of sex).

“Sure, we’re No. 1 in gross domestic product and military expenditures,” Mr. Rice says. “But on a lot of measures of quality of life, the U.S. ranking is far lower. I try to be as accurate as I can and I avoid editorializing. I try to complicate their thinking.”

His most recent posts include how American ranks on central government debt (14th) and alfalfa exports (2nd). Rice is also a prolific blogger for Forbes. 

Although Rice’s work has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, I hadn’t discovered it until today. I look forward to more of his posts.

Links of the Day:

– The Buffalo News looks at the cost of retiree healthcare in the public sector. Of course, those getting low-cost health care say those coming after them shouldn’t get the same benefit because “times have changed.” While I have no problem with public sector workers and retirees contributing more to their health care, I do think it’s wrong to let corporate America, which has largely abdicated responsibility to workers to increase profits, to set the agenda.

– The killing of Penfield native Daniel Metcalfe in Afghanistan is detailed in the New York Times.

– Bobcats are heading to Western New York.

– How a stammering kid became Cuomo’s spokesman.

7 Responses to Ranking America

  1. Thanks for the notice, Rachel. If you ever find reason to make use of my blog or my commentary, please don’t hesitate to ask!

  2. “I try to be as accurate as I can and I avoid editorializing. I try to complicate their thinking.”
    Kudos on that Mark. If only more journalists thought that way (not you Rach). Our newspaper is always sprinkling opinion into news stories instead of saving it for the Opinion Page.

  3. October 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm Pete Tonery responds:

    I’m guessing ya’ll haven’t seen the opening episode of The Newsroom with Jeff Daniels? In a stunning scene near the open Daniels, a Dan Rather-style news anchor snaps when a student asks the assembled reporters, “What makes America so great?” he just goes off into a ninety second tirade of statistics demonstrating that the US is far from great in virtually every category that might constitute national success.
    Here is a youtube link to the scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h__uutzcQXc

    From some blog….

    ” In the pilot of The Newsroom, a new series for HBO, TV news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) emotionally checked out years ago, and now he’s sitting on a college panel, hearing the same shouting match between right and left he’s been hearing forever, and the arguments have become noise. A student asks what makes America the world’s greatest country, and Will dodges the question with glib answers. But the moderator keeps needling him until…snap.

    Will: It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor, that’s my answer.

    Moderator: [pause] You’re saying—

    Will: Yes.

    Moderator: Let’s talk about—

    Will: Fine. [to the liberal panelist] Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paychecks, but he [gesturing to the conservative panelist] gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes. It costs airtime and column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so GODDAM ALWAYS!

    And [to the conservative panelist] with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America’s so starspangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.

    And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about?! Yosemite?!!!”

    • Actually, I did see it, but not until some friends pointed it out to me and asked me if the show’s writers cribbed from my blog. I don’t know if they did or not, but many of the statistics on his rant had already been posted on Ranking America.

      • October 24, 2012 at 9:41 am Pete Tonery responds:

        I doubt if Arron Sorkin needs to crib! Data well published. Your site is a good idea. American politics, and the John Ford/John Wayne/Ram Truck (God, guns and guts built America!)mythology doesn’t encourage a balanced view or understanding of ourselves. Most American would be shocked to know that the majority of Europeans FEAR the US because we are the world’s ONLY superpower yet we spend so much on weaponry, spying, and defense. They fear us because they can’t understand why we need such power…or what we are so afraid of!

  4. October 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    it is always easy to say public employees should pay more. how about the rich why can’t they pay more?

  5. And those same American’s are willfully ignorant of the casualty numbers those same European country’s soldiers have suffered supporting us in the war in Afghanistan. 1/3rd of the NATO deaths there are non-American troops. The lack of a draft in this longest war in US history has led to a complete disconnect between our military and civilian population, but the relatively smaller populations of the rest of the NATO nations means that most every non0US NATO soldier killed in Afghanistan is front page news in his/her home country. I’m a combat veteran, and I have to search for news on US casualties. Our local media covered the rear-ending of a school bus with more vigor than the death (and return of his body) of a Penfield soldier.

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