(AP) The current lack of cultural literacy in the United States among high school students has been traced back to Avon catalogues.
Crystle Swinford, cultural psychologist, said: "I recently interviewed several teenagers. One girl named Christina had never heard of Mother Theresa, Rip Van Winkle, John Adams, Ernie Keebler, or Andre the Giant. She thought that John Lennon was that "guy who hosted the talk show at night." She also thought that Plato was the modeling clay that kids used to make things."
"Christina, however, was perfectly happy to read Avon catalogues. She knew all about eye shadow and eye liner, but nothing about Henry the Eighth or John Calvin. I asked her what to do to cure facial blemishes, and she referred me to the variety of products on page 57. When I then asked her what quinine cured, she had no clue.
"A co-worker of Christina's at her summer job, Alma, was equally clueless. She had no clue about William Tell, Kierkagard, or Oscar Wilde. She could find me the page in the Avon catalogue that could help me with wrinkles, but not the page in the phone book that gave me emergency numbers."
Literacy has declined so drastically that teachers are no longer teaching classic literature anymore. One instructor I interviewed said that she has put away the text books and just quizzes the students on the articles in Seventeen and Cosmo."
A study by the National Teachers Association found that 78% of high school students did not have the attention span necessary to finish a short story in one sitting. This may explain the shortening of articles in teen magazines and such publications as U.S.A. Today.
Dr. Swinford continued: "This generation was raised on three minute MTV videos, or movies with car chases and fights every other scene. How are they supposed to sit still and pay attention to Gone With the Wind? Knowing modern kids and movies, they are probably all waiting for the tornado."
I wanted Cristina, Alma, and several other girls to come to my office at Wichita State University to study them further. I offered to fly them in and put them up at my expense. I gave up, however, when one of them told me that she didn't know where the state of Wichita was."
I have commissioned a study at a prominent medical school to find out what chemicals in make-up are contributing to this decline in mentality. This is another sign of the dumbing down of America that we keep reading about."
Buffy Marshmallow, spokeswoman for Avon, said in response that "it's not like its our fault or something. I mean, who cares about those old dead guys anyway; they can't help you with dry skin or split ends. Besides, I like watching that Leatherman show more anyway."