Blogs > Liberty and Power > Boobus Americanus Can't Find the Baghdad Cafe

May 3, 2006 10:54 am

Boobus Americanus Can't Find the Baghdad Cafe

Our public schools in action:

"Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war there [Iraq] began in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate the country on a map of the Middle East. Seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel."

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Sudha Shenoy - 5/4/2006

That was just the one question out of 20. All the other 19 related to _geographical_ questions: locations, population, etc. This was not a lightweight quiz designed to give comfort to American libertarians.

(And for thos who did watch CSI: the question would/ve elicited their recognition of the landscape they saw week after week.)

Sudha Shenoy - 5/4/2006

From the same survey: Half didn't know where New York state was; 48% couldn't find Mississippi;one-third couldn't find Louisiana. And one-third didn't know where 'north-west' was on a map. Over 70% didn't think they needed to know the locations of countries in the news.

Is it too much to ask that people with a high school diploma should at least know _their own_ country's geography? And what price Americo-centric teaching now?

Keith Halderman - 5/3/2006

You call knowing where a country we are at war with is "perfection", that seems to be a pretty low standard.

Anthony Gregory - 5/3/2006

I suppose that when Americans achieve something grand, it's because of public schools, which are ironically geared toward teaching people not how to "build economies" but rather how to. . . locate countries on a map, do simple math problems and know when the Civil War happened. And yet, when Americans—even intelligent ones and very productive ones—don't know anything the schools supposedly taught them, it is not to be blamed on the school system at all.

I don't know about you, but I don't consider it a demand for "perfection" to lament the fact that the vast majority of Americans don't know 1/100th of what they were "taught" in the school system. I'd also be willing to bet that if a market-based school system had anywhere near the same pathetic record, you would call it a classic case of market failure.

Max Schwing - 5/3/2006

I don't think so, because German schools constantly fare better, although our history is mostly Europe-centered (we have a lot of breathing history here ;) ), still I have yet to find a person that wouldn't be able to point out where Iraq is. (On the other hand, I could have been on a school and a university which is big above average Oo)

John Richard Clark - 5/3/2006

...instead, I try to include Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America along with the Europe/US narrative.

Rebecca Anne Goetz - 5/3/2006

I just took the quiz, and I missed the question about what city the original CSI takes places in. Turns out the answer is Las Vegas. If you ask me to find Las Vegas on a map, I can do that, but I don't watch TV, so answering a question that's more about a TV show than actual geography is rather problematic for me. I wouldn't blame missing the correct answer to that question on any school, public or otherwise.

Sudha Shenoy - 5/3/2006

1. Of course there are maps. Does anyone make sure students learn them properly? They can get high school diplomas while still as ignorant as this.

2. World history without Europe or the US. Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, perhaps? It'd certainly be very easy to teach.

John Richard Clark - 5/3/2006

Typical libertarian baloney.

You require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government. Libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.

I guess the publicly-educated masses that helped grow the modern economies of the past 150 years are illusions.

I teach the world and US survey courses and have yet to see a college textbook that didn't have detailed maps included within the text. I can't speak for other professors, but I use maps where appropriate in my lecture presentations.

Maybe the problem isn't, as you assert, public schools. Maybe it's a problem of high schools and colleges teaching Europe/US-centric history instead of world history.