The Alarming Decline of American Smart-Assedness
“Why can’t one fifth of Americans locate the United States on a map?” Miss Teen South Carolina famously botched the answer to this question, but what are we to make of this survey result? Most people seem to consider it a stinging indictment on the American educational system and evidence of America’s inevitable decline that 20% of us can’t find the United States on a map. I agree that this is evidence of America’s decline, but not for the reason most think.
I find it disturbing that when some condescending academic researcher pulls out a map of the world and asks Americans to point out the United States that 80% give a straight answer. Back in my day, if someone asked such a thing, well over 80% of us would have worked up some drool and pointed to Brazil (that is, once we had established that there was no free beer for a correct answer).
What is really alarming here is not that Americans are ignorant of extremely basic geography (they’re not), but that so few Americans know how to answer even the stupidest of stupid questions in a smart-assed manner. If you were to ask this question in say, North Korea, 99% would probably answer correctly – because they know that if they give a smart-assed answer they could end up in some re-education camp. Our smart-assedness is an indicator of our freedom.
I fear that that the consequence of this survey will be more teachers spending more time in front of their classrooms pointing to the United States on world maps. This inevitably will lead to more students who are too mind-numbingly bored to come up with properly flippant answers to insulting survey questions.
I weep for my country.