Friday, February 26, 2010

A question of geography

Listening to late night radio the other day, I heard an extract from the American "Celebrity" edition of the show "So you think you're smarter than a fifth-grader" (better known in the UK as "So you think you're smarter than a ten year old"). The celebrity in question, Miss X who had, I understand, recently come third in America's version of "The X factor", was asked the question "Of which country in Budapest the capital?". Her thought process in attempting an answer, ran as follows:

"I think they speak French there. (pause) I'm gonna say France. (pause) Is France a country?"

I may be mistaken, but I believe she is from Iowa.

The following day, again on the radio, was a discussion about Sarah Palin, discussing whether she may re-emerge as a serious future Presidential candidate. In discussing her fitness for office the following facts were revealed:

She had no idea that there was a North Korea and a South Korea.
She thought Africa was a country.
She believes gay people can (and should) be "cured".
She has inspired a country music song........

.... part of which they played and which was such a bag of sychophantic horse-shite that it would have been vomit-inducing even if it had not been presented in the country format.

The first question to arise from all of this: Is geography a subject not particularly valued in the States? I have caught some of series 4 of the Wire which is based around the education system, but I can not recollect seeing a geography class at all. Or in High School Musical.

The second question: Given that America is a super-power and given the fact of globalisation, is it acceptable that, for the purposes of choosing it's leader, it has adopted a system in which a/ Miss X has a vote and b/ Sarah Palin may be a candidate?

Would it not be preferable to adopt a new system to elect American Presidents, one in which all the citizens of the world who can demonstrate they are likely to be affected by decisions made in America had a vote so long as firstly, they can name at least three continents with no mistakes and, secondly, they think broadly the same as I do about all other matters?

The new world order system could be rolled out to all emerging superpowers (China next, I think) in order to maintain stability and good sense.

I have today written to my own Member of Parliament to ask him whether he is aware that Africa is a continent.

Otherwise for the benefit of Miss X:

Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is not to be confused with Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
France is, indeed, a country.
The capital of France is Paris.


Jennyta said...

Unbelievable! Or, sadly, perhaps not. Americans are well known for their lack of geographical knowledge of other parts of the world. (OK, I am generalising here). However, I wonder if it is nearly as bad here. A few years ago, my then teenage daughter was going on holiday with friends to Tenerife. When out shopping, I pointed out a book about the Canary Islands and asked her if she would like it. She turned to me with a look of whithering scorn. "Mum! I'm going to Tenerife, not the Canary Islands!"

naldo said...

Teeheehee....i'm diggin your ideas for rejiggin the democratic process of the world's superpowers.

If i passed yer test, i'd vote Ralph Nader for president.

jay said...

Oh dear. ...

Well, yes, sadly it's true that many Americans know little about geography outside their own country. There are many theories about why this is so, but it's not new.

You're right though, things are going to have to change if they want to compete on the world stage.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

As a teacher, it never ceased to amaze me how little most of my students knew about our country, our continent, our world. So this isn't an exclusively American phenomenon. Remember the sadly departed Jade Goody who gave so very much to civilisation during her regrettably short time upon this Earth? She thought that East Anglia was a country! Actually, I thought Jade Goody was a crash test dummy.

J.J said...

Hi Jenny - that Tenerife comment made me laugh!

Naldo -suspect you would always pass any test of mine!

Jay - may be it is we who are parochial? Assuming everyone has heard of France??? No - surely it is NOT just us being parochial.

YP - fair point, especially re St. Jade of Bermondsey. And no - Bermondsey is not in East Angular.

John said...

I thought Paris was in Texas.

J.J said...

Yes but where's Texas John?

rhymeswithplague said...

Texas is a state of mind. I know because I was raised (but not born) there and I left just as soon as I could cobble together the money.

But that's not why I'm commenting. I agree with you that "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" (American title) is one of the most ridiculous program(me)s I have ever seen. The audience applauds with wild enthusiasm at the most preposterous of answers, and the contestants all have astronomically high self-esteems (is that a word) regardless of all the televised evidence of their lack of knowledge about the most rudimentary of subjects.

Thanks for this opportunity to release a long-suppressed rant, even at this late date.

J.J said...

Rhymes - I can assure you that your rants are always most appreciated in this place :-)