Publisher's note: A colleague of ours, Mitch Allen, who lives in Ohio, wrote the following. We cheer him for his insights, and we also mourn the direction our country has gone in this regard. Cheers to Mitch for reminding us.
JEERS - To how we decide who's a "celebrity." "In the first two decades of the 20th century, America's list of top celebrities included many inventors, explorers and scientists. But by the time we got to the second half of the century, our celebrities had become almost exclusively entertainers - actors, singers and professional athletes.
"Our interest in the Nobel Prize was replaced by our interest in the Oscar, the Grammy, the Lombardi Trophy, and now, the 'American Idol.'
"Superstar celebs from 1900 to 1920 included Wilbur and Orville Wright, Louis Bleriot (first flight across the English Channel), Marie Curie (Nobel Prize in physics), Robert Scott (Antarctic explorer), Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Albert Schweitzer (Nobel Peace Prize) and Albert Einstein.
"Superstars from 2013 included Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian.
"Why can't we make celebrities out of the women and men who are working to cure cancer or create energy from the movement of the tides? Why can't we cheer for these people the way we once cheered for Amelia Earhart and Neil Armstrong? Why can't we see on the red carpet someone who has walked on the red planet?
"Even our so-called 'journalists' are becoming entertainers, desperate shock jocks who exist to froth our fears and direct our attention like a circus ringmaster.
"If our nation doesn't start teaching our children the importance of math and science, we are destined to become mere exporters of entertainment to the rest of the world - until they grow tired of us, tossing the Statue of Liberty aside as if she were some aging chorus girl. And when that happens, there will be a race to the bottom: 'What? You no longer like our singing? Well, then watch us twerk.'
"The single greatest threat to the United States of America is not our moral decay; it's that we no longer think it's cool to be smart."