Sunday, May 07, 2006

Global Illiteracy & the "Global War on Terror"

The findings of the National Geographic-Roper Survey 2006, conducted by the National Geographic Society, were released on May 1. The survey explored the Geographic Literacy among young Americans (age 18-24).

Key Findings:

  • 63% percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East.

  • 70% could not find Iran or Israel.

  • 90% couldn't find Afghanistan on a map of Asia.

  • 54% were unaware that Sudan is a country in Africa.

  • 48% of young Americans believe the majority population in India is Muslim.

  • Though they were aware of the devastation caused to Indonesia by tsunami in Dec'04, Three-quarters of respondents failed to find that country on a map. And three-quarters were unaware that a majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world.

  • Fewer than 20% young Americans own a world map.

  • Fewer than 30% think it's absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located.

  • Only 14% believe speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill.

    The geographic knowledge about US itself was just as much dismal:

  • Half could not find New York State on a map of the United States.

  • A third of the respondents could not find Louisiana, and 48 percent couldn't locate Mississippi on a map of the United States, even though Hurricane Katrina put these southeastern states in the spotlight in 2005.

  • Told they could escape an approaching hurricane by evacuating to the northwest, only two-thirds could indicate which way northwest is on a map.

    ...Which reminds one of the "foreign affairs quiz" to which George W Bush was subjected to during his campaign during 1999. The following is the transcript of Q&A between reporter Andy Hiller, and the then-presidential candidate, George W Bush:

    Hiller asked: "Can you name the president of Chechnya?"

    "No, can you?" Bush replied.

    "Can you name the president of Taiwan?" Hiller asked.

    "Yeah, Lee,'" responded Bush, referring to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.

    "Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" asked Hiller, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who took over last month in a military coup.

    "Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?" replied Bush.

    Hiller replied: "No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot spots."

    Bush said: "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."

    Hiller persisted, saying "Can you name him?"

    Bush said: "General. I can name the general. General."

    "And the prime minister of India?" asked Hiller, inquiring about a man who was recently re-elected and who last year tested a nuclear bomb.

    Bush said: "The new prime minister of India is – no."

    At that point, Bush responded in kind to Hiller.

    "Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?" asked the governor, whose home state borders the Central American nation.

    The reporter replied, "No sir, but I would say to that, I'm not running for president."

    The Roper Survey perhaps explains why he got elected.

    To understand the implications for those not living in US, of this chemistry between the Leader and the Led, one must watch these two video-clips (humorous but also disturbing):

    On the Streets of America (1)

    On the Streets of America (2)

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