It's yet another top-in-the-country ranking for our not-so-humble region. Sometimes folks get weary of these list-driven accolades -- which, frankly folks, are in the online world just a heck of a good way to generate pageviews and ad bucks for a site like The Daily Beast.
But, hey, who doesn't like seeing themselves called the smartest region in the US?
Not that it would be smart to accept such praise on face value. After all, the metric -- which looks at factors ranging from educational attainment to universities to non-fiction book sales -- isn't perfect, and it's be dumb for those of us in the purported "America's Smartest City" to accept that there's any one measure.
On the other hand, I'm in the midst of a three-day familial visit in my hometown of Orlando, a place that's been Mickey Mouse when it comes to education for years. And after watching non-stop TV commercials last night hawking some moron named "Bubba the Love Sponge" -- a guy whose antics appear to make the groanworthy "Bob and the Showgram" folks in Raleigh look like positive Rhodes Scholars -- well, the Daily Beast nailed their bottom-of-the-list ranking for my hometown.
So maybe they're on to something.
Of course, as is typical in these surveys, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and -- apparently -- even Fayetteville got thrown into the Ronco Metro-Blender ("it slices! it dices! it regionalizes!") to put the data together. But yes, even with that our region edged out San Francisco (#2) and Boston (#3) for the top slot on the survey.
The rankings used per-capita measures to balance out metros of disparate size; then, as the Daily Beast's Clark Merrefield says:
[We] divided the criteria into two halves: Half for education, and half for intellectual environment. The education half encompassed how many residents had bachelor’s degrees (35 percent weighting) and graduate degrees (15 percent). No credit was given for “some college,” or “some grad school”—we rewarded those who finished the race. The intellectual environmental half had three subparts. First, we looked at nonfiction book sales (25 percent), as tracked by Nielsen BookScan, the nation’s leading provider of accurate point-of-sale data, which tracks roughly 300,000 titles each week. We focused on nonfiction as an imperfect proxy for intellectual vigor, because overall sales are dominated by fiction works that, while entertaining, aren’t always particularly thought-provoking. We also measured the ratio of institutions of higher education (15 percent), as defined by the federal government—different than just measuring college degrees, this acknowledges that universities don’t just churn out diplomas, but instead drive the intellectual vigor of cities. Finally, many studies link intelligence and political engagement, so we weighed this, too, as measured by the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in the last presidential election (10 percent).
The comments on the post have been the typical grousing you'd expect to see -- though the most amusing grumbling comes from the N&O's Jay Price, who does some hometown ego-boosting of his own:
There were the usual issues with not quite understanding the three corners of the region when discussing Research Triangle Park. Unbelievably, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill get a nod, but there is no mention of N.C. State University. What part of the word "Triangle" is it that all these national rankers don't get?
What say you, dear readers? Has Tina Brown's news site nailed the Triangle's reputation with this ranking? Or, do you agree with the comment at the Beast of one ex-pat from the region, who groused about our towns besting the Bay Area?
Maybe I should be proud that my hometown in NC town beat out my adopted hometown of the SF & the Bay Area. But this is nuts. Didn't the study account for the dark side of a place? As much as I adore Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham--along with Asheville these are the bright spots on a dark continent of NC--the redneck/Jesse Helms/neocon element of RDCh should bring the scores down, a lot, shouldn't they? That dark element is alive and well throughout the South.
And if they say the Bay Area isn't as politically engaged as RDCh, they're nuts. Of course, SF/SJ's local governments are pretty great already, and maybe we don't have to work so hard. In NC, you have to work all day and all night just to make sure the guys in office don't embarrass you.