Well, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers, Then!

One reason why democracy doesn’t seem to be working very well is that the public is becoming increasingly ignorant about what makes it work at all. Evidence of this trend comes by way of a provocative study by the Pew Research Center, which polled the public regarding which professions it believes contribute the most to society.

The results can be found in this press release, this summary, and this article in The Careerist, but here is a snapshot:

Worth study

What this means, essentially, is that those polled don’t have a clue what these professions really do, and understand the law least of all. Do lawyers contribute “a lot” to society’s well-being? Without lawyers crafting, explaining, enforcing and executing the laws, society would degenerate into chaos. Only 18% of the public thinks that preventing that is a significant benefit to society.

The appreciation of other professions, like artists and business executives, is absurdly low as well.  Even those professions with comparatively high ratings (except for the ranking of the clergy, which is wildly inflated)—the military, doctors, scientists and engineers—don’t crack 80%, suggesting that about a quarter of our fellow citizens live in a fantasy world.

Let’s eliminate the military and observe the results. Let’s close down the medical schools, and see how that works out. And apparently 82% of the public thinks that Shakespeare’s famous ironic plea from Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, *wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. What good are lawyers, really?

My question is this: if teachers are so beneficial to society, why is the public so ignorant about how a successful democratic society functions?

* For some reason, I originally and erroneously attributed the quote to “Measure for Measure.” I apologize to Will, Dick, and my literate readers, and yes, I blame my English teachers…


Pointer: ABA Journal

Source: Careerist, Pew

20 thoughts on “Well, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers, Then!

  1. Jack,

    On the face of it, depressing, for exactly the reasons you note.

    I wonder though: the link says this was the sixth question in a survey, and they’re not sharing the first five. While the words “contribute to the well-being of society” sound unambiguous taken on their own, if the first five questions were all about status or reputation or respect or trust, then I can well imagine this question being “tainted” by the previous ones.

    I know lawyers and politicians routinely rank at the bottom of ‘most trusted profession’ lists; and while that’s a very different question from “contribute to the well-being of society,” I wonder whether respondents are being cued as to the difference?

  2. “My question is this: if teachers are so beneficial to society, why is the public so ignorant about how a successful democratic society functions?Really don’t think it’s teacher’s job to grade the merits of every profession. That should be left to the students’, based on their experience.”

    The Pew Center surveyed 4000 adults, not students, so not sure why you’re aiming the results as a teachers’ shortcoming.

    Cause if that’s the case, then science teachers should be fired. How is it that so many students graduate believing that evolution is a hoax, that the earth is just a few thousand years old, and that gay people can be cured?

    And let’s fire those History teachers… How many students can find Egypt on a map, or know the events that lead to the American Revolution or why the South fought the Civil War?

    Teachers can’t be blamed for the decaying knowledge base of their former students. Cause if you do that, might as well throw parents under the bus.

    • “The Pew Center surveyed 4000 adults, not students, so not sure why you’re aiming the results as a teachers’ shortcoming.”
      The point of education is to raise educacted adults, not temporarily educated students.
      Of course, we do neither…

  3. The aptly named P-yew Foundation and its spawn always seem to have an agenda that is invariably supported by their data.

    • Other Bill,

      “[Pew] always seem to have an agenda that is invariably supported by their data.”
      Care to share some proof of that claim? An example? Maybe even just an anecdote? ANY kind of data to support that snide comment?

        • If anyone believes that poll is accurate, the only conclusion can be that the public is either woefully ignorant or just insane! Neither bodes well for the country. If I recall correctly, Pew is not highly rated as far as the accuracy of their polls is concerned. I certainly hope that’s the case here.

  4. “If teachers are so beneficial to society, why is the public so ignorant about how a successful democratic society functions?”

    Many people believe teachers are beneficial to society for reasons other than teaching how a successful democratic society functions. Many parents see school as a place for their kids to go so that the parents can work. If this were not true, I think more parents would pull their kids out of districts or schools which show questionable, if not harmful practices.

  5. It’s also pretty depressing that artists are so far down the list. I know it’s Pew, but I do wonder nevertheless about the diversity of the survey sample. (In fact, I usually wonder that about all surveys.)

  6. Only 18% of the public thinks that preventing that is a significant benefit to society.

    Ooooooooooooor the people surveyed know that the most common single “occupation” for someone in congress is “lawyer”.

    And if that is the case, that they were aware of this fact, then I am more than a little shocked that 18% thought well of them.

  7. Even those professions with comparatively high ratings (except for the ranking of the clergy, which is wildly inflated)—

    And this is just…wildly…uninformed.

    Church attendance is THE greatest deterrent to juvenile crime/delinquency, ranking as even more influential than having a father at home (the second-highest ranking deterrent.)

    I’ve known enough single dads and moms for whose teens church essentially WAS a parent, who navigated poverty and became successful, to verify that. But my experiences aren’t what matters. The data is.

    “Sociologist Byron Johnson has marshaled conclusive evidence that Church attendance is associated with reduced crime and delinquency. Johnson, who is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, summarized his findings in an article entitled “The Religious Antidote” (First Things, August/September 2011).

    Byron has both conducted studies himself and reviewed the studies of others. An early study (1986) by Richard Freeman examined housing projects in several major cities to determine factors that helped kids stay out of trouble. Religious faith was a key factor. Byron, working with several colleagues, replicated Freeman’s study in the late 1990’s, with the same result: The frequency of attending religious services was inversely related to the likelihood of young, poor, black males selling illegal drugs or otherwise breaking the law. The differences in getting into legal trouble between those who attended church and those who did not were on the order of 40 to 60 percent.

    In 2000, Byron reviewed forty studies on the relationship between religion and delinquency, with similar results. The same was true of a review of sixty studies by Colin Baier and Bradley Wright in 2001, which further demonstrated that the inverse relationship between church attendance and delinquent behavior increased as studies grew larger and more comprehensive.”

    “Participation in religious activities is negatively correlated to participation in criminal activity.” (Religion and its Effects on Crime and Delinquency, Neuroscience Research Institute, State University of NY, U.S. National Library of Medicine)

    “The literature is not disparate or contradictory…Religious measures are generally inversely related to deviance, and this is especially true among the most rigorous studies.” (A Systematic Review of the Religiosity and Delinquency Literature, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice)

    “…researchers from the Human Population Laboratories of the Public Health Institute and the California Department of Health Services, and from the University of California, Berkeley, found that people who attended religious services once a week had significantly lower risks of death compared with those who attended less frequently or never, even after adjusting for age, health behaviors and other risk factors. The study will be published April 4 in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine…

    “The picture that is developing is that religious activity is affecting health through several pathways,” said Oman. “Whether it is encouraging better health habits such as exercising, providing a strong social support network, providing a sense of psychological well-being, or all those factors combined, it seems clear that the effects of faith deserves more study.”

    A recent study by Professor David Sikkink and visiting scholar Edwin Hernandez of Notre Dame along with Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa concludes that regular church attendance by students enhances their school performance…
    The authors of the study say other potential educational effects of religious attendance include disciplined scheduling, improved focus from the habit of sitting through religious services and the “moral fortitude” to persist when work is difficult.

    “The finding linking attendance to good school performance for poor kids can’t be chalked up to the fact that churchgoing kids may have families that would keep them in good standing at school, anyway, Regnerus says.

    Even after he took account of key personal and family qualities, church attendance remained a major, independent influence.” (USA Today)

    But sure, 37% of people knowing that clergy are greatly beneficial is just wildly out of proportion. Let’s fire all of them, they aren’t contributing anything.

    • I know that religion can be beneficial, that following a moral code is beneficial, that being part of a church community can be very beneficial. But the quality and professionalism of the clergy, as with teachers and journalists, is so sketchy as to be untrustworthy.

      Religion succeeds in beneficial effects, to the extent it does, largely in spite of the clergy, who do, after all, perpetuate untruths, and then there’s that little child molesting problem that has done untold damage, and that dwarfs any similar breach of trust for any of the other professions, including teachers.

      • “…who do, after all, perpetuate untruths”

        In your estimation. And I have no idea just which clergy you assume perpetuate untruths (and which perpetuate things you or I just don’t believe, or where the overlap is anyway), or which clergy are associated with the child abuse acandal (it’s a subset of a subset of all clergy, and one entity out of thousands, though one of the biggest to be sure.)

        “Clergy” cover nearly the entirely of the people directly responsible for the envisioning, establishment, and operation of a church institution. From the Pope to Catholic priests and bishops to the inner-city storefront church pastor, to the layperson who volunteers as clergy while simultaneously owning a shoe store, to the Korean pastor whose congregation rents a school for space, to the Salvation Army Captain. To asume that the measurable benefits of said institutions happen “in spite of” them is almost cruel, albeit cruel to a class/vocation of people without the social capital/marketing acumen to bite back in any way.

        If your point is that church leaders are declining in quality/integrity, I’d be on board with that. Everything is declining in that direction, unquantifiably in part due to the declining influenceof that thing that the clergy does. But you can say that about any profession.

        I’m even more on board if your point is that clergy perception is at an all-time low. I’m sure it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly everyone who gave clergy high marks had been directly benefited by the actions of a minister in some way. I don’t know what other means of cultural transmission relays much of anything positive about clergy.

        • ??? I can turn on a cable channel right now and hear a clergyman tell me what God said thousands of years ago, as fact. That clergyman actually has no idea what God said, whether he said anything at all, or whether there is in fact a God to say it. He may believe all of this, but he also knows that they are not facts. Yet he states them as facts. I call that perpetrating untruths. What would you call it?

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