Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When America sneezes ...

How hilarious. Last month, the New York Times ran a report on the ignorance of American teenagers. But I'm not sure that I, for one, have anything to gloat about.

"Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought ..." Civil war?! Er ... that's Abraham Lincoln, right? So (no cheating and looking up Wikipedia) 1860-ish? "... and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750." But, as we all know, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fifteen ... er, fourteen hundred and fifty ... sixty? ... seventy-two? Oh, ninety-two?! Really?

According to the survey organisation, the results demonstrate that "a significant proportion of teenagers live in stunning ignorance of history and literature". Well, I'm here to tell you that (a) it isn't just American teenagers, and (b) it isn't just teenagers!

I don't know about literature, but history seems to be an endangered subject in some Scottish secondaries. Far more important to learn what proportion of the Scottish population are elderly, or what age you have to be to get a criminal conviction, or how a gay couple constitute a viable family unit. The authors of the report said, “The nation’s education system has become obsessed with testing and basic skills because of the requirements of federal law, and that is not healthy.” Narrowing the curriculum? Sounds familiar.


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