Columns

2006.02.08 Who cares about the smartest state?

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

What’s the dumbest state in the country? Care to take a guess? I’ll bet you’d be surprised. According to Morgan Quitno Press, a private research and publishing company based in Kansas, our friends in Arizona get to wear the dunce cap this year.

Morgan Quitno bases that conclusion on a study of 21 factors, including high school graduation rates, student proficiencies in various subjects, drop-out rates, class sizes and much more.

The “smartest” state, according to Morgan Quitno, is Vermont, another ranking I wouldn’t have guessed. Morgan Quitno’s president, Scott Morgan, said, “Vermont shines in many key areas of education. A high percentage of its students excel in reading, writing and math.

“In addition, schools in Vermont have smaller class sizes and lower pupil-teacher ratios than in most other states.”  And all that maple syrup has nothing to do with it?

Rounding out the top 10, in descending order of smartness, were Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Montana and New York. The next ten were Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maryland and North Dakota.

It looks pretty suspicious to me with all those northeastern states ranked so high and Morgan Quitno’s home state and its two neighbors cracking the top 15. And how did Montana make the top 10?

Missouri leads the next 10, followed by North Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan in 27th, Idaho, South Carolina and Washington. Isn’t Texas ranked at the bottom in education? How can they be 24th smartest?

Ohio rears its head at 31st, followed by Illinois, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Oregon, Oklahoma and Georgia.

The bottom 10 is led by Tennessee in 41st, then Hawaii, Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Mississippi and Arizona, the 50th “smartest” state.

How about California in 46th? That’s the home of Silicon Valley, so why the low ranking? Because the governor can’t pronounce the name of the state?

Before anyone from Michigan gets too excited abut the state’s ranking of 27th topping Ohio’s 31st, I should point out that Michigan’s lead has fallen drastically since the rankings were first done three years ago.

When Morgan Quitno first assembled the smart state list, Michigan ranked 20th, while Ohio was tied for 41st with Alabama. In three years, Michigan has dropped seven places and Ohio climbed 10 to cut the gap to four spots.

So what’s making the difference? Modesty forbids me from pointing out that between the two rankings, I moved from Michigan to Ohio. That would be way too self-serving to mention.

Morgan Quitno compiles several other state rankings in other areas, including healthiest state. Vermont leads this one again, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, Iowa, Utah, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Connecticut.

This is just about the same group as the top ten smartest states except for New York, which is tenth smartest but only 31st healthiest. It’s a virtual tie locally with Michigan ranking 23rd, compared to 25th last year and Ohio 26th, compared to 24th last year.

The “unhealthiest” state is Louisiana, followed by Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The odd state here is Texas, which is 24th smartest, but only 45th healthiest.

Then there are the safest rankings. North Dakota is the safest state, followed by Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin and Idaho.

Start at the bottom of the list to find the most dangerous state, Nevada, followed by Louisiana, Arizona, Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Alaska, New Mexico and California.

Ohio leads Michigan by a good margin here. The Buckeye state is 28th safest (23rd most dangerous), while Michigan is 39th safest (12th most dangerous).

Notice how the safest states are all in the north, while all the most dangerous, except for Alaska, are in the southern part of the country?

Notice that Arizona ranks as dumbest, third most dangerous and 12th unhealthiest while Vermont is smartest, healthiest and second safest?

I still think I’d rather vacation in Arizona. Vermont is so boring it probably only seems like you’re living longer. As for being safe, that’s no surprise. Even criminals are smart enough to hide out where the weather is warm.

– February 8, 2006

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