The presumably fine folks at something called Safehome.org have ranked all the states according to their smartness, and our beloved Sunflower State came in a perfectly respectable seventh place. If we correctly remember what we learned about mathematics and civics in Kansas’ public schools that probably puts us in the top half of the 50 or so states, and we reckon that ain’t bad.
The Safehome.org folks based their rankings on a presumably scientific formula that takes into account the number of citizens with a bachelor’s degree, the high school graduation rate, the average score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and how many of the state’s students had least a passing score on the SAT’s various benchmarks, which strikes us as fair enough. Kansas might have fared better by some less hifalutin formula that takes common horse sense into account, but we suppose that is hard to objectively quantify, and given the snobbish disdain of the coastal elites we Kansans just know are laughing at us behind our backs with chips on the shoulder, seventh place seems almost comforting.
We were glad to see that New Jersey topped the list, as it’s the butt of far more jokes than Kansas will ever be. The state features some of America’s scariest ghettos, the ongoing storyline from “The Sopranos,” and frequently disgraced politicians, but much of it is quite nice, and every New Jerseyan or New Jerseyite or whatever you call them that we’ve ever met met have been very nice and very smart people. We’re not sure they’re smarter than Kansans, who spend less time in traffic on highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, but we mean them no disrespect.
According to Safehome.org the second smartest state is Utah, which is not surprising, as those Mormons believe in all sorts of crazy things but are nonetheless very smart about many things. Massachusetts came in third and North Carolina fourth, which greatly annoyed us because we’ve known some very snobby and not all that smart people from both states. Montana finished fifth, and although we’e visited that very beautiful state we really don’t know enough Montanans or Montanians or what ever you call them to make a judgement about how smart they are relative to Kansans. Sixth place went to Virginia, a state that played an outsized role in American history since Washington and Jefferson, and we’ve been lucky to know many Virginians, as they like to be called, and although they’re a rather snooty bunch we have to admit we found several of them them smarter than the national average.
So seventh place ain’t bad, as we reckon it. We’re still ahead of another 43 or so states, according to our calculations, including all the neighbors we like to jibe about. Colorado and its legal marijuana came in 15th place. Missouri and its big league baseball teams came in 18th. Nebraska and whatever it has going for it was 20th. Oklahoma, a state we dearly love filled with some very smart family and friends we dearly love, came in 50th, just ahead of Idaho. The District of Columbia, which isn’t even a state so far as we can tell, came in 31st, which might account for any discrepancies you’ve noticed in our math.
Such populous and influential states as California and New York and California and Texas also lagged far behind Kansas in smartness, but as Kansans we are far too smart and refined to say “n’yah n’yah n’yah,” and will give due respect to our fellow Americans. The states have enough to quarrel about without some pseudoscientific rankings of their smartness, even if it does acknowledge how relatively smart us Kansans are, and it’s not the Kansas way to brag about such things..
Kansans have been smart enough to make vibrant cities and towns and far-flung farm houses out of this harsh and barren part of the country, and as imperfect as our state is we think it quite an accomplishment. We’ve travelled through 48 other states in our days, as well as the District of Columbia, and have found smart people and dumb people everywhere, and we hope they’ll prevail.
Our limited understanding of mathematics tell us that approximately half the people out there are below overage in smartness, though, which is a frightening thought given how often the brighter half of the population is wrong. For now the country seems to be doing a sufficient job of creating a great nation out of what was once a forbidding wilderness, even if neither of our political parties is currently helping out much with the chore, and we’ll hold out hope that the smartest people spread around the country somehow prevail.
— Bud Norman