Can we laugh a little? I just read this hilarious story from the NY Times about the geographically challenged among us. The article actually discusses an even more pernicious problem–American anti-intellectualism. But let’s agree to have a laugh at our foibles:
Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from “American Idol,” appear[ed] on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?”
Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”
What is, of course, especially sad about this is that almost no Americans would actually see anything wrong with knowing next to nothing about the world outside their living room window. And if we know next to nothing about what is outside ourselves can we know anything at all about what is within ourselves–own heart and mind?
The video is instructive in lots of ways and also has some amazingly offensive banter directed at Clarkson and women in general (though Clarkson isn’t an exemplary representative of her gender by a long shot) by the game show host.
Jim S. says
You have a good blog here, sir. This is my first time contributing so bear with me:
This is not as acute a point as it appears to be. Studies in other countries-Britain, I believe-show that other people are often just as ignorant.
One should not be anti-intellectual but all the same hasn’t the American intelligentsia often asked for it? They have often hated their own people, quite virulently. No other intellingentsia-with the exception of the Russian intelligentsia under the Tsars-has ever shown this.
This cannot be for real.
No one is that dumb!
Jesus Christ! Oh great now you got me saying that! Me, an atheist,
There is no hope for us. My cynicism is justified…
liberal white boy says
Are you stealing my material?
Zhu Bajie says
“One should not be anti-intellectual but all the same hasn’t the American intelligentsia often asked for it? They have often hated their own people, quite virulently. No other intellingentsia-with the exception of the Russian intelligentsia under the Tsars-has ever shown this.”
Baloney! Have you never heard of loyal opposition?
Zhu Bajie, American intellectual
Norman Weinstein says
Right you are, Zhu Bajie. Seems to me that those American intellectuals like Chomsky, Finkelstein, et al are operating not from a reflexive hate-America position but rather from a highly ethical one – might we even be so brash as to say, from an ethical core that in origin and tradition might once upon a time have been termed Jewish? “My country right or wrong” could just as well be the mantra of fascists and Nazis as that of our own flag-waving, “anything-goes” patriots. I don’t mean to suggest that all who wear little metal flags in their lapels, like our unitary executive and his snarling handler, necessarily parrot that “right or wrong” reductio ad absurdum or are fascists. I actually know some nice people who do in order, I suppose, to guarantee that their fellow citizens know damn well that they are real Americans first and other things afterwards. One problem, though, Zhu, is that it might be wise to define just who or what one is “loyal” to. For example, to say that I oppose the Bush regime with heart, soul, emotion and viscera is not to say I am loyal to HIM – God forbid! I am being loyal to whatever he is not and to those representatives of whatever he is not.
Norman Weinstein, occasionally an intellectual, being too lazy to be one full-time
Jim S. says
One does not mind criticising America. One would wish, however, that it were done with a constructive purpose in mind, and not connected with flag-burning or supporting brutal dictatorships.
Also, criticising the critics does not really make one a chavinist.
As John Cleese said:
“You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the ‘World Series’ for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders,your error is understandable. “