A new study at bizjournals.com ranks Baltimore 15th out of 385 metropolitan cities rich in young brain power, with 30.2 percent of our population between 18 and 34 in possession of a bachelor’s degree or higher. We love this uplifting concrete news, though it doesn’t exactly surprise us given how many stellar colleges and universities there are to be found in and around our town. We remember, too, that in 2009, The Daily Beast named Baltimore the 10th smartest U.S. city, based on education and intellectual environment, and in 2010 kept us rated high but dropped the ranking to 20th.
We personally know gobs of brainy young scientists, men and women who build robots, youthful people dedicated to cancer research, precocious scribes publishing first novels and poetry collections, painting wonderful murals, teaching disadvantaged kids to read and think for themselves and make music. But we also feel the pinch when our pals in D.C. tease us for being one of the fattest cities in the nation–we ranked 8th most overweight metro in Men’s Health in 2010. We greatly regret our frequently assigned “Murder Capital” nickname. And we can’t help but notice that many Baltimoreans we know, often the most well educated and insightful among them, tend to psychoanalyze our town as a victim of low city-self-esteem; we have to agree that Baltimore does occasionally seem to slouch in the tall, sharp shadow of our nation’s capital, and apologize for itself rather than find something to brag about. (D.C. in fact ranks number one for youthful brain bounty, by the way, with 38.8 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds holding college and graduate degrees.) And that’s a shame when there’s so much to celebrate locally.
Here’s an idea. The next time you feel like making a city-deprecating reference to the racist hillbilly population still residing in pockets of the city, or to the nutty thugs who seem hellbent on striding into your speeding car as they cross the street, or the abundant addicts who swear they just need a dollar to buy a bus pass home, try this cognitive-therapeutic exercise: Lose the bad hackneyed news, stand up straight, and remind yourself and your dinner guests that we’re also a city powered by vibrant youthful intellect. In coming decades, our best and brightest seem likely only to grow older and wiser, and our complex city that much prouder, stronger, and, who knows, maybe even physically fitter, in the educated bargain.