A new National Education Foundation report is out today, based on the results of a nationwide quiz of middle-school students. Titled ‘The Bigotry of High Expectations: American students are deplorably ignorant about the wider, inferior world,’ it confirms fears that the myth of American unexceptionalism is now widespread among US teens.
You might assume that in the greatest country on Earth, young adults would grasp the logical implication that the rest of the world is, well, less great.
But if you expected that, you’ve been living in a cave, says speleobiologist David Dixon—as illustrated by scores from the NEF test of knowledge about the world’s countries, good and otherwise, sat by thousands of teens last week.
“Performance was… poor,” says Dr Dixon. “As in, Puerto Rico poor.”
Almost 60% of candidates were unable to name the capital city of a tinpot banana republic.
Fewer than half of respondents knew the preferred way of naming, collectively, the planet’s most retarded countries (‘the developmentally-delayed world’).
And only 58% were able to point to the ass end of the world on a map.
“Which was barely better than guessing,” Dixon explains.
Scores were even poorer on more challenging questions such as:
America has been called a great experiment in multiculturalism, and its success can be seen in any of our ethnically-diverse neighborhoods. Where in New York City would you find the most unconvicted mass murderers walking free per capita?
(Answer: ‘Turtle Bay.’ Also accepted was ‘the United Nations building.’)
Students started out well when asked if they’d rather live in the United Kingdom or the Kingdom of Bhutan, with 91% of candidates correctly choosing the English-speaking pro-American proto-America, far and away the less sub-American of the two non-American monarchies.
The authors of the test, however, cautioned against self-congratulation. “The first item was not intended to challenge students,” they reminded journalists, “but as an example of how to fill in the multiple-choice answer sheet.”
Also acceptable was to furiously obliterate both of the above and use whatever remained of the nub of the 2B pencil provided to write “HELL NO.”
Answers in pen, HB pencil or an unassuming script that seemed almost to be apologizing for its own existence might not be read correctly by the computer, warned the front-page instructions.
A troubling 7% of students wrongly selected the landlocked Himalayan hellhole where freezing your ass off remains the leading cause of death—despite the efforts of an army of surgically-trained volunteers from the West—followed by driving while ethnic Nepalese and, in third place, committing lèse-majesté too loudly.
Holidaymakers who accidentally visit Bhutan come home with horror stories about life in the 38,394-square-kilometre Medieval theme park.
Neighbors who refuse to shut up their Bhutanese barking deer are the least of the problems. The term ‘fashion crime’ may take on a whole new meaning when you receive style tips at gunpoint from the Royal Bhutanese Mounted Cultural Police. The country’s roads are a free-for-all warzone of gored carcasses and widespread contempt for the Yak Yakking Act (which nominally bans the use of cellphones while riding the dangerous and unpredictable bovines).
But the single most common complaint is the difficulty of booking an airline ticket the hell out of there. Bhutan still has no Internet, though the King was gracious enough to share his Intranet password in 2001, opening up a whole new world consisting of the .gov.bhut domain plus a D drive with cam rips of the latest Bhutanese-dubbed romantic comedies.
His Royal Godliness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck—whose subjects have not produced a peer-reviewed scientific paper “in quite some time”—is said to be ecstatic about the front-page mention in the exam, calling it the closest the People of the Thunder Dragon would ever come to contributing to human knowledge.
Of the following, according to the 2011 World Civilizations Census, there are now more people living in:
A North America
C The Asia-Pacific
D The Middle Ages