In the 1950s, women and girls knew we should never act smarter than a man. Playing dumb was an art. Self-deprecation was attractive and got results. As for the men, only jocks were allowed to get good grades and get away with it. Otherwise, one was a nerd – a dork – not one of the "in" crowd.

Unfortunately, a huge segment of our population is still suspicious of anyone who is successful, well educated or rich. To own these attributes is against the rules of the huge, uneducated, uninformed, soft underbelly of our society. In our striving to lift all our citizens onto an even playing field, which is an admirable goal, instead of raising the bar of expectations and performance, our standards are set at the mean. We aspire only to be average. When sociologists refer to the "dumbing of America," they aren’t kidding.

There are communities, both geographic and vocational, where college graduates, for example, are made to feel apologetic and hide their accomplishments just to make others feel better. Galesburg is one of them. In this community it’s just a bad habit to make fun of Knox College, faculty and students, when in fact, considered one of the best small colleges in the country, Knox is one of the few bright spots and stable businesses we have left. It should be a source of community pride.

The business development efforts of GREDA, the Chamber of Commerce and other entities are constantly being criticized by people who contribute nothing to the community and certainly not its business development. These business, education and labor leaders should be supported and given credit for their efforts and successes, not constantly ridiculed for some of their failures. At least someone is trying to do something. Contrary to common assumptions, every one of us is responsible for what happens in this community.

For unions and other employees to blame other community leaders for not keeping Maytag and Butler Manufacturing here, or the other way around, is unrealistic and a waste of time. These companies can and will do what they want. We gave away the store to keep Maytag and it didn’t work. Butler sold us out. End of story.

At this point in Galesburg’s history, we need to get out of our mediocre, average, apathetic mode and all take responsibility for the changes that are coming. Nobody owes anybody anything.

Whatever we do, let’s stop using mediocrity as our standard. It’s time for us to stop playing the blame game and be proud to use our brains, education, experience and good sense to rebuild our community.

Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at Other columns are online at