Think About It Thursday

I figured we’d discuss a lil something of substance today…

Recently, Newsweek asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take the official citizenship test… (history teacher radar beeping like mad…must see results!)

Newsweek Findings:

  • 29% couldn’t name the vice president
  • 73% couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War
  • 44% could not define the Bill of Rights
  • 6% couldn’t circle Independence Day on a calendar

The full article can be read here. While nothing new, these statistics are no less painful to my eyes.

Now, as the article points out, the American political system can seem quite complex, so I’ll let some of those people slide.  What I find more concerning is the lack of knowledge Americans have about anything outside of their borders.  I squirmed when PC’s teammate related that in high school a friend of his on exchange in the states was asked if Hitler was still alive.  C’mon people.

I don’t mean to say that only Americans are ignorant.  There are millions of dim bulbs out there in the world.  However, it becomes more alarming when America continues to take a leadership role in international affairs.  For example: the (currently) US led coalition has fired over 100 missiles into Libya, but I’d be willing to bet that most Americans would not be able to locate that country on a map.  Of course, polls have shown over and over that Many Americans cannot find their own country on a world map.

Obviously a joke. Though I'd wager it's not far from reality for those ig'nants out there

Teaching at MIS, I am continually amazed at the worldliness of the students, and I can’t help but compare.  It pains me to acknowledge that during PC’s time in the US, ignorant university students  assumed that he was an English language learner.  Sure it was only a few, but their existence is embarrassment enough.

Beyond my woeful head shaking,  I am interested in why we continually appear so pitifully uninformed.  I find that in general US curricula are pathetically deficient in Geography.  We just stick it onto history and figure that’ll be sufficient.  In Australia, as well as in the International baccalaureate system, geography is a subject unto itself.

I don’t particularly like Jay Leno, but I hate/enjoy Jaywalking segments.  Here’s one with HS students

I am unsurprised that Americans can’t find America on the map, not because they are ignorant of their country, but because they are ignorant of its world context.  We focus almost entirely upon American history and culture which can lead to that whole Jingoistic “my country’s the best so why should I care about anywhere else” attitude.  For many people, it’s not until college that they confront any other region’s history.  We are not stupid, but uninterested and uninformed.  Considering globalization trends, and our economic future…I feel like this is a problem.

The Newsweek article suggests that a lack of government broadcasting outlets (which often cover international topics) contributes to the lack of international awareness.  Yup, people don’t watch too much PBS, but they do want to see Charlie Sheen return to Two and a Half Men.  I’ll take the media angle further.  Our culture is narrowing the scope of “news”.  With Twitter and well…blogs (guilty), news is increasingly ‘what I ate for brunch’ or ‘what Sally Mae did on Saturday night’.  Kids are less likely to care about what happened in the Gaza Strip Saturday night.

Anyways, these sorts of stories always rile me up, and I wonder what you all think about this. What should change? Or are we doing just fine? Did I just bore you by talking about this crap?


If you want to test out your own geographical knowledge try it  here.  Every correct answer donates rice to the World Food Programme! (click subjects and choose geography)


4 thoughts on “Think About It Thursday

  1. Hahah loved the video Erin, ‘its not Mt Rushmore’ was my personal favourite!! I actually didn’t know that you didn’t have a seperate subkect for geography! That sucks, it was one of my favourites all through school!

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