Looking around, it’s easy to believe we’ve lost our fundamental
sensibilities. But some things come along that help us realize we’re
actually wiser than a lot of people with big titles and money and
responsibilities.

Like social scientists and academicians and politicians who commit time and money to study….what any of us can readily answer through our common sense.

The United States is so wealthy that we award
researchers millions of dollars per year to fund “important” studies
that report nothing beyond common sense. Why does it take a research
team of PhDs to create statistical tables to report findings that
everyone already knows? The market for research studies continues to
grow as everyone from politicians to new parents now relies on it to
furnish credibility.

Among recently released studies is one containing the amazing
finding that breathing clean air is better for one’s health than
breathing dirty air. As reported in the January issue of the New
England Journal of Medicine, a research team from the Harvard School of
Public Health and Brigham Young University examined pollution content
in 51 U.S. cities during the 1980s and 1990s and found that people
living in cities where air pollution had declined enjoy increased life
expectancy concomitant with increases in air quality. Wow.

No kidding.

The authors of the study conclude: “A reduction in
exposure to ambient fine-particulate air pollution contributed to
significant and measurable improvements in life expectancy in the
United States.”

In case that did not change your world view, try this one: Did you
know that high school dropouts are much more likely to succumb to
cycles of dependence rather than independence and are, overall, less
productive in a global economy? According to a “groundbreaking” study
conducted by The Economics Center for Education & Research at the
University of Cincinnati, at the request of the Ohio Alliance of Public
Charter Schools (OAPCS), on average, each student failing to graduate
from high school will end up costing Ohio taxpayers $3,909 per year
from age 16 to 64, or about $191,500 over a lifetime.

Didn’t we know this stuff already? Of course. How do these studies get approved, for crying out loud?

There’s more.

Are you sitting down for this one? According to a new
study, virginity pledges adolescents make are not lasting. Really?
Virginity pledges alone do not decrease teenagers’ sexual behavior,
says a report in the January issue of Pediatrics.

So, we turn to these for credibility….or comic relief?

Except it’s not funny.

In the end, many of these researchers are given
university tenure and awards for telling us things that our parents
taught us–for example, toxins are toxic, education is vital for making
a contribution to society and supporting oneself and one’s family, and
sexuality divorced from a strong moral code restricting it to marriage
is aimless and damaging.

In today’s meritocracy, we have traded in time-tested guidance from
our elders for costly university studies. Even opinion-heads like me
have come to rely on these studies for public credibility. They permit
me to say, essentially, “See, I told you so.” As a result, we pay for
insight that we could get for free from clergy, older family members,
and other sources of wisdom.

So, knowing that, how do we stop paying, and start using our common sense?

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....