(This Dave Barry column was originally published Oct. 20, 2002.)
An outfit calling itself ''Morgan Quitno Press'' recently ranked the 50 United States in order of intelligence, and I am TICKED OFF. My state, Florida, came in 47th. Can you believe that? Forty-seventh! How dare they? How dare they suggest that Florida is more intelligent than three other states? No way!
The three states ranked as stupider than Florida were Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico. Granted, these are not gifted states. But stupider than the state that STILL does not really know who it voted for in the 2000 presidential election? Stupider than the state that will issue a driver's license to ANYBODY, including people who steer by leaning out the car window and tapping their canes on the roadway? Don't make me laugh.
So I did a little research into this ''Morgan Quitno Press,'' which can be rearranged to spell ''Squirts on a Porn Gem.'' This outfit has made its reputation by ranking states according to Livability, Safety, Average Butt Size, etc. For example, for six years in a row, ''Morgan Quitno Press'' declared that the Most Livable State is Minnesota. My question is: Most livable for what species? Caribou? Has ''Morgan Quitno Press'' ever actually BEEN in Minnesota during the winter months (September-June) when you begin your day by putting in 30 minutes with an ice scraper? And that's just to clear your bathroom mirror.
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The problem with the intelligence ranking is that it's based on each state's public-education system-class size, test scores, etc. This does NOT determine state intelligence. It only determines STUDENT intelligence, and there are certain states (you know who you are) where the first thing that the intelligent students say when they graduate is: ``I'm getting OUT of this armpit!''
No, to scientifically determine where states belong on the national intelligence scale, we need to consider the Five Key Indicators of State Stupidity:
1. STATE NICKNAME: For nickname stupidity, no state challenges Indiana, which proudly calls itself ''The Hoosier State,'' even though nobody has a clue what ''Hoosier'' means. It could be a Native American word meaning, ``Has sex with caribou.''
2. STATE MOTTO: The winner is Washington, whose motto is -- get ready to be inspired -- ``By and by.''
3. STATE SONG: The state song of Idaho is, ``Here We Have Idaho.''
4. OFFICIAL STATE THINGS: Here the competition gets tougher. Three states have declared an Official State Nut. Two have an Official State Cookie. Texas has an Official State Flying Mammal (the Mexican freetailed bat). But the winner in this category is a five-way tie among Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, all of which have taken time out of their busy schedules to declare an Official State Soil.
5. PRESENCE IN THE STATE OF AN ENORMOUS TWINE BALL: This indicator applies to states where a resident, seeking to set a world's record, spent years wrapping twine into a ball weighing more than eight tons; and THEN the community, instead of transporting it to a landfill, created an annual festival to celebrate it. There are TWO such states: Minnesota, where the residents of Darwin celebrate ''Twine Ball Days,'' and Kansas, where Cawker City holds a ``Twine-a-Thon.''
So which state is the stupidest? This question has no easy answer.
No, wait, it does: Kansas. I say this not so much because of the twine ball, but because Lawrence, Kan., is the home of ''Morgan Quitno Press.'' Consequently, it gets a LOT of votes. At least the way we count them here in Florida.
(c) 2008, Dave Barry
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