Maine: ‘Dumbest state’ in the U.S., but at least we’re not ugliest


Maine is the “dumbest state” in the nation, according to new national rankings posted recently on the blog “policymic.”

That’s bad, but it could be worse.

The Pine Tree State could have been singled out for its love of bestiality, such as Washington, or its high gonorrhea rate, like Louisiana. We could have North Dakota’s “ugliest residents” or the highest rate of cocaine use, like Colorado. Perhaps worse, depending on your point of view, we could be distinctive for our high corporate tax rate, such as our neighbors in New Hampshire, or our infertility, such as in Vermont. (I always thought of Vermont as a good place for romance, but what do I know?)

We can all be thankful that we’re not Mississippi, where blogger Chris Miles had difficulty deciding what to highlight among a dubious list of that state’s “worsts.” Highest child poverty? Nope. Highest infant mortality? Nope. Lowest household income? Nope. Highest teen birth rate? Nope. Highest overall rate of sexually transmitted diseases? Nope.

Miles settled on labeling Mississippi is the fattest state for its 35 percent of obese residents. 

So back to Maine. What earned us “dumbest state”? The blog cites a 2010 report by the Commonwealth Foundation that showed Mainers’ average Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score of 1,391 was 50th best in the United States. Or in other words, worst. (If Washington D.C. were a state, it would have ranked 51st with an average score of 1,385).

A cursory glance at the study reveals why Maine ranks so low. Among the top 20 states on the list, only one has an SAT participation rate of more than 10 percent and most are closer to 5 percent. Maine’s SAT participation rate in 2010 was 93 percent, the highest in the country. That’s because since 2006, most every high school junior in Maine — as well as all third-year high school students, regardless of how many credits they have earned — has been required to take the SAT, which is used here to assess all high school students in reading, writing and mathematics.

The SAT is known primarily for its use by colleges and universities to gauge the abilities of applicants, which means that in most states, only college-bound students take the test. I didn’t have the highest math score in the world when I took the SAT (or the highest reading or writing score, either), but that suggests to me that those states are likely to have higher average scores than states where even high school dropouts take the SAT.

Speaking of high school dropouts, Texas is identified on the map for having the lowest high school graduation rate at about 78 percent. In 2012, Texas ranked 47th in the nation for its average SAT score. There’s another math lesson for you.

I think. 

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.