Young people sure are the worst, right? They’re always so busy with their texting and their tweeting and their #Occupy protests that they don’t have the time to actually look up from their devices and learn something about the real world. Case in point, CNN is reporting that a recent study discovered that 10 percent of college graduates think Judge Judy—yeah, the lady from the TV—is on the Supreme Court. Maybe if these young people weren’t so gosh darn stupid, they’d stop begging on the streets for marijuana cigarettes and get real jobs.
Here’s the thing about statistics like this, though: forfty percent of all people know that they can be used to prove anything. In other words, it’s easy to manipulate information to back up your argument, no matter what the information actually says. So yeah, 10 percent of college graduates think Judge Judy is a Supreme Court Justice, but that also means 90 percent of college graduates don’t. The latter is just as accurate, but it’s not as snappy and it doesn’t let older people—who can all name each of the Supreme Court Justices, apparently—feel superior to young people.
The goal of the study was to show that college students aren’t being educated about civics well enough, and while the rest of the data seems to support that (60 percent don’t know how an amendment gets ratified, for one thing) it’s cheap to frame it like this. Young people these days probably don’t care who Judge Judy is, so the 10 percent figure is just as much a reflection of their knowledge of popular culture as it is of civics. Basically, the Judge Judy statistic doesn’t really prove anything, but that won’t stop people from suggesting that ignorance of a TV personality makes you a bad American. (Ignorance of how amendments work is another matter, though.)