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Are americans more ignorant than europeans?

  1. Mar 28, 2007 #1
    I have heard that many americans do not know what the capital cities of european countries are. But I don't know what the capital cities of most american states are and given that some of these states are bigger than european countries I think I should ask:are americans any more ignorant than europeans?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2007 #2


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    I don't consider lack of detailed geography knowledge as a sign of "ignorance". That's what books and the Internet are for -- 10 seconds to find out a capitol name when needed. I save my memorization space for things that I use daily. I doubt you would consider me ignorant if you met me and worked with me.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2007
  4. Mar 28, 2007 #3


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    I think the "ignorance" the OP is talking about is in the context of a knowledge of socio-political conditions in parts of the world outside one's own neighborhood.
  5. Mar 28, 2007 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Is this a question about median or average expectations, or the low end of the intellectual spectrum, or the intelligentsia?
  6. Mar 28, 2007 #5
    I don't know that americans are dumber, but certainly more ignorant. I think that has been measured a million times over. Part of the reason I suspect is due to the relative isolationism--in europe you travel 2000 miles you may have been thru 4 or 5 countries. In the US that would take you from LAX to Ohare. And on the other end the same McConalds and Starbucks. Its unfortunately not only about geography, but science and math. We are dumb and getting dumber.
  7. Mar 29, 2007 #6
    In 2002 National Geographic did a survey among 18 to 24 year olds.
    At that time only 13% of the Americans could find Iraq on a map. I bet they can find it now.

  8. Mar 29, 2007 #7
    in fairness they should have asked questions about fashion designers, rock groups, new cars. and the taco bell menu. Would have smoked the godless miscreants.
  9. Mar 29, 2007 #8
    The masses of ignorant people are being supported on the shoulders of great thinkers and big businessmen. if we loose one of those men the rest are going to fall off
  10. Mar 29, 2007 #9
    Ki Man:
    "The masses of ignorant people are being supported on the shoulders of great thinkers and big businessmen. if we loose one of those men the rest are going to fall off"

    I think this is right because there seems to be a lack of people with certain skills now and it is going to be difficult to replace the older generation when they retire.Many people don't want to study difficult subjects
    that advance society and too many people are studying subjects just because they will get high income.
  11. Mar 29, 2007 #10


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    I agree the sheer size and population of the US accounts for it's relative isolationism and introspection.

    Watching the news in LA I found most of the TV news covered events in California and then when it went to "Now for the rest of the news" it went to New York.

    Here in Ireland with a small land area and a population of only 4 million by necessity the news spends more time on international items simply because there are insufficient local items of interest to fill the news slot as Mrs Murphy's dog is missing is unlikely to grip the audience :biggrin:

    Another aspect is the power ratio. The more powerful a country is the less bothered it's citizens are in what other countries think of them and so for example I would think the average Iranian citizen is extremely interested in anything the US says about them to glean some insight as to whether an attack is coming (newsworthy) whereas the average US citizen secure behind their military might has no such worries and so is correspondingly less interested in whatever emanates from Iran (not newsworthy).

    So I wouldn't say Americans are dumber than their international counterparts because they are less familiar with world geography, it is just their focus is different.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  12. Mar 29, 2007 #11
    i'll take my chances. Could you name a few of these indispensable Atlases?
  13. Mar 29, 2007 #12


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  14. Mar 29, 2007 #13
    I think you nailed it. We in planet America just don't care about the rest of the world these days, because we don't think we need to.

    Also though, I think it's fair to say that statistical numbers of ignorance are likely to be bady skewed by extrema. We have legions of horribly ignorant folks in the backwoods and inner cities. If you normalize for them in both europe and america, I'd guess discrepancies would largley disappear.
  15. Mar 29, 2007 #14
    Humans are intelligent in the the things required for their environment. It doesn't matter what part of the world they reside. The OP is meant to stir up contention.

    Do I care what the capital of some distant country is that I will never visit or deal with? No, but my neighbor might care even though he also will never visit or deal with it. I'm ignorant in that respect but I've got more important things to concern myself with.
  16. Mar 29, 2007 #15
    From the link:
    I think thats is worse than not knowing where Iraq is. From my experience History and Geography arent the strong point of the average American. All present company / thread subscribers excluded obviously :biggrin:
  17. Mar 29, 2007 #16


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    ...some distant country that you think you will never visit or deal with...

    We went to war with Iraq when the President didn't know who the Sunni and Shia were. While this may not be a part of the problem, it is symptomatic of it. The lack of knowledge of Middle Eastern culture may be a large part of the reason that the US force is being thought of as occupiers rather than liberators.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  18. Mar 29, 2007 #17
    I really hope that's urban legend. I'm no Bush fan, but I learned that in 9th grade. Seriously, that's not even funny.
  19. Mar 29, 2007 #18
    Hell if I'm going to learn the capital of every country in the world just in case one day I might visit or do business with them. There is plenty of other more interesting trivia to learn out there.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  20. Mar 29, 2007 #19
    I am left to wonder how that measures up against common knowledge of youth in other countries. I skimmed through the report and I didn't find a comparison. Shouldn't the study have included youth from other countries? And shouldn't it have included comparison to similar reports from decades ago? (Assuming such studies were done back then.)

    From the report:
    "This study was specifically designed to test the knowledge and abilities of 18- to 24-year-olds."

    I think this should read, "This study was specifically designed to test the knowledge and abilities of 18- to 24-year-old Americans."
  21. Mar 29, 2007 #20
    Good point. What was the motivation of the study?
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