Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 :::

Planned is a five-year, multimedia campaign called My Wonderful World that will target children 8 to 17. The goal is to motivate parents and educators to expand geographic offerings in school, at home and in their communities.

They will have their task cut out for them, judging by the results of the survey of 510 people [ages 18 to 24] interviewed in December and January.

Among the findings:
  • One-third of respondents couldn't pinpoint Louisiana on a map and 48 percent were unable to locate Mississippi.
  • Fewer than three in 10 think it important to know the locations of countries in the news and just 14 percent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill.
Allow me to side with the majority.

In general, I'm not a fan of taking press releases from special-interest groups and generating news stories out of them. That it has a poll attached to it might make it news if the poll said anything interesting, but it doesn't.

For example, six in ten can't find Iraq on the map. I think people opining on Iraq ought to know most of its neighbors and its relationship to them (Syria was friendly with Saddam, Turkey has problems with the Kurds, they fought a war with Shiite Iran, etc.), but I can't see how anyone's position would be affected by the fact that Iraq looks kind of like a balloon.

There was a "story" a month or two back about popular knowledge of the founding of the republic. Some percentage of people didn't know who had said, "Give me liberty or give me death." Ignorance of whom we fought for independence is somewhat relevant to current international relations (more because we take after them than because we fought them). But ignorance of the source of a good quip shouldn't exclude one from civic life. A lack of understanding of why (most of us) speak English might rule out holding federal office, but it shouldn't prevent one from judging which candidate holds values closer to one's own.

Ignorance of economics, maybe. And nobody who doesn't have a basic grasp of probability should be admitted to a jury. But a lot of what these quizzes study don't go much beyond the level of trivia. The creators of the surveys want us to be alarmed and eager to spend money on their programs, but alarm is not usually called for.

::: posted by Steven at 8:00 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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