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When you start nostalgically complaining about kids these days, you have officially become an old fart.

Kids have been flunking these gocha tests for at least 30 years and the world has not fallen apart.

Posted by elenchos | February 26, 2008 2:23 PM

If you haven't noticed yet, most people are ignorant. It's nothing new. Leave the dumb kids alone.

If it is the USA Today it must be true.

Posted by Rotten666 | February 26, 2008 2:28 PM

See, this is the only time when you're encouraged to stop "thinking about the children".

Internet? Think of the children.
Violent video games? Think of the children.
Porn? Think of the children!
History lessons? What're ya gonna do?

That said, I agree with @1, we were failing these tests when I was a kid and I have a hunch they've been failing since the mid-50s.

Posted by Chris B | February 26, 2008 2:29 PM

HALF missed #5? HALF?!

I only graduated from high school a year ago and that was standard required reading for everybody Freshman year! Even if you only read the back of the book you would get 5 right! Sheesh!

Posted by Courtney | February 26, 2008 2:30 PM

i'm actually stunned that the kids did so well. there's no effing way that around 75% of my high school classmates would have known who walt whitman was, or roughly 50% would have known what 1984 was about. congrats, class of '08, you kick the crap out of the class of '96.

Posted by jon c | February 26, 2008 2:32 PM

I wouldn't have gotten the "Invisible Man" one. The % of kids who couldn't answer when the Civil War was is the most surprising, for sure.

Posted by Julie | February 26, 2008 2:32 PM

@ 1,

Kids have been flunking these gocha tests for at least 30 years and the world has not fallen apart.

What do you think the chances that W would have failed to know this stuff when he left boarding school? Maybe you should be a bit more concerned.

Posted by Matt from Denver | February 26, 2008 2:35 PM


The problem is that NCLB is all about test-taking, and not about learning or education.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 2:37 PM

I'm not as suprised by the Walt Whitman or 1984 questions. At that age, if it wasn't required reading in one of your classes, you're not likely to know it (obviously, this isn't true for all teenagers, but for "most people" I think it's true).

Posted by Julie | February 26, 2008 2:38 PM

This would be more meaningful with some historical perspective. How many 17-year-olds would've correctly answered these, say, three decades ago? I'm not convinced the class of 1978 would've done that much better.

Posted by tsm | February 26, 2008 2:38 PM

America has gone downhill since they cancelled Schoolhouse Rock...

Posted by michael strangeways | February 26, 2008 2:38 PM

I was given one of these gotcha tests in high school during the late 80's and deliberatly screwed it up (picked Canada as the location for the USSR was one I did and I said Augustus Caesar was the inventor or Caesar Salad Dressing.

I never take the results of these seriously. Niether should you.

Posted by Andrew | February 26, 2008 2:39 PM

I suspect we'd all fail similar tests of teen knowledge viewed from the prism of 19th century educational standards.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 26, 2008 2:40 PM

Are people going to yell at me if I ask someone to please post the answers?

Posted by Falch | February 26, 2008 2:41 PM

At least for me, I always confuse 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm and several other post-apocalyptic books with each other. Same for A Raisin in the Sun, Go Tell it on the Mountain, and the countless other African-American Northern Migration/Harlem Renaissance books. Do they get partial credit if they were close?

/P.S. Does SLOG not understand HTML underlining? I can get bold and italics to work...

Posted by LT L | February 26, 2008 2:41 PM

@ 8

Are those your answers?

Posted by hunh? | February 26, 2008 2:42 PM

But where are the ANSWERS!?!?!?
God, what a TEESE!

Posted by AAARRRGG | February 26, 2008 2:42 PM

We have an educational system that emphasizes problem solving and "critical thinking", not facts, dates, and figures. There are few facts that are part of a mandatory cirriculum to graduate, even at elite schools like Harvard.

So that's what you get. One can be a constructive contributor society while not knowing any of the things above.

Posted by MHD | February 26, 2008 2:42 PM

Kids these days, they don't even know how to use a rotary phone. I bet they don't even know how to erase their older sister's New Kids tapes to record themselves and their friends goofing off.

Posted by K | February 26, 2008 2:43 PM

People are treating these questions like they're current events, when really they're just as much a part of history to the current younger generation as the Continental Congress or the Louisiana Purchase.

So ask all the old farts questions relevant to today's teens, like who was the author of Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, or the names of the two perpetrators in the Columbine school shootings, or what the Y2K problem was, and check their awareness.

Posted by Lou | February 26, 2008 2:44 PM

I drink your milkshake. I drink it all up.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 26, 2008 2:45 PM


i thinks so

Posted by Philly | February 26, 2008 2:45 PM


Posted by hunh? | February 26, 2008 2:45 PM


When he left boarding school? I seriously doubt he could correctly answer most of these questions TODAY.

I mean, it's not like "No Child Left Behind" means "left behind smart people"...

Posted by COMTE | February 26, 2008 2:52 PM

Yeah, what are the answers? I want to know if I'm smarter! I took the quiz. I got ACBDB, but figured I was wrong about #2.

Posted by Callie | February 26, 2008 2:53 PM

nice Will - 1800 to 1850 and the Missouri Compromise - I would have said 1850-1900 and Emancipation Proclamation but I'll bet you do better on Lou's important quiz.

BTW Y2K was more of a hype than a problem.

Yes We Can!

Posted by ouch | February 26, 2008 2:55 PM

Lou - Gen-X? Who gives a shit? Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Eric's psych files are still under lock and key in my office. Y2K? The difference between a 0 and a 1. Literally.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 26, 2008 2:55 PM

Why is the test you posted not the same as the one from the article? Where are the GD answers?!

Posted by hunh? | February 26, 2008 2:58 PM

You need a lot of proletariats for the system to work!

Posted by ha | February 26, 2008 3:00 PM

Correction: You need a lot of dumb proletariats for the system to work!

Comment 29 never happened!

Posted by ha | February 26, 2008 3:01 PM

Dude. People posted the answers. It's ADBDB.

Posted by Aislinn | February 26, 2008 3:02 PM

As the doctor in Idiocracy said "I don't mean to be a dick or nothing, but...". I'm surprised that people on Slog are getting the answers wrong. These are pretty basic questions.

Posted by ADBDB | February 26, 2008 3:02 PM

I have Google on my phone - why do I have to know anything? Besides when we've reached the least common denominator in dumbing down US society, you won't be able to abuse people with your intelligence, and bar talk will be reduced to the level of chewing gum for the ears.

Whether Augusta is the capital of Maine or George III's mother; whether Walt Whitman smoked or wrote "Leaves of Grass"; whether Louis XVI suffered from phimosis or guillotining.

It's all in your thumbs. Dumb is the new smart. Celebrate your know-nothingness. Drink's the new Coke.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | February 26, 2008 3:03 PM
Posted by hunh? | February 26, 2008 3:05 PM

I had to guess on #4, got it right anyway. It's like asking who directed "Titanic" 150 years from now...

Posted by Walt Whitman | February 26, 2008 3:05 PM

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

-George Santayana

Posted by Non | February 26, 2008 3:05 PM

Extra credit:

a. What color was Washington's white charger?
b. After what famous baseball player was Lou Gehrig's disease named?
c. Railroad crossing, look out for the cars. Can you spell it without any R's?

Posted by Spoogie | February 26, 2008 3:06 PM

To my knowledge, exactly three people have ever seen EH's psych records. And we're not talking.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 26, 2008 3:07 PM

@ 15,

1984 is the one that came true, ala Big Bush, Osama Goldstein, and so forth.

Posted by Original Andrew | February 26, 2008 3:08 PM

To all those people asking for answers: YOU'RE ON THE INTERNET. Learn about Google.

Posted by Emily | February 26, 2008 3:10 PM

really not shocking at all. as it has always been, a very small minority of the american (and global) masses will grow up understanding history, science, math, philosophy and language. anyone reading slog, as hard as it may be for SOME to believe, is in this minority.

Posted by Judith | February 26, 2008 3:10 PM

If a train left Boston at 4:30 a.m. traveling at 78 miles per hour collided with a train that left Pittsburgh at 6:00 a.m. traveling at 90 mph, where would the survivors be buried?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 26, 2008 3:10 PM

Spoogie, you forgot the classic: Who's buried in Grant's tomb?

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 26, 2008 3:11 PM

Edit: you need to assume a distance of 450 miles for #42.....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 26, 2008 3:13 PM

Sorry, i tried to memorize the answers, but my choices were actually different than what I wrote.

I got confused by the link to the test itself, which has different questions.

next time i'll write them down first.

And Columbus didn't try to discover America - he discovered the Carribean and was looking for China, so the question is triply lame.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 3:13 PM

I'm definitely in the "don't need to know the exact date of historical events" camp here. But, I do think knowing how long ago the white man "discovered" America to within the nearest 250 years is a good idea. Or, knowing generally how long ago the Civil War was (the question asks it in 50 year increments, which I think is fair). I mean, if you're walking around thinking that slaves have been free for only 50 years (answer F) or for more than 250 years (answer A), I think that's a problem.

Posted by Julie | February 26, 2008 3:14 PM

who is walt whitman?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | February 26, 2008 3:15 PM

@20: Your "today's teens" are about 26-36 now, based on those questions.

Posted by K | February 26, 2008 3:17 PM

@43 - Julia Dent Grant - a very ugly first lady.

@37 - Washington's horse was snowy, with hints of ecru; Babe Ruth gave Lou Gehrig his disease - fluids in the locker room or something similar - if you spell "it" with an R you get Rit dye - no longer very popular as people just hate dyeing.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | February 26, 2008 3:18 PM

And the dog ate your homework.

And ST2.1 will be held in February.

Posted by ouch | February 26, 2008 3:23 PM


A: In the ground. But they'll still complain about it for a couple of days.

Posted by COMTE | February 26, 2008 3:24 PM

I always wonder about these "look how dumb people are" surveys. Are people giving stupid answers just to be smart asses?

Posted by markinthepark | February 26, 2008 3:25 PM

@47, he's the guy that the candy sampler is named after. I think.

Posted by Spoogie | February 26, 2008 3:26 PM

Nappy we need to know what kind of health care they had when the trains met.

Posted by ouch | February 26, 2008 3:26 PM

@45 - so you're saying you don't know when Columbus discovered America with all of that erroneous logic. How could he have discovered the Caribbean - wasn't it there all along? China is in the cabinet - even on all three of his caravels. The island hit was Watling - now named San Something. He had red hair. "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" might be a good place to start - Samuel Eliot Morison - and sorry you won't be able to read it on your Dick Tracy watch.

Posted by BELMONT PLACE | February 26, 2008 3:26 PM

General and Mrs. Grant.

Posted by Zeldfelder | February 26, 2008 3:28 PM

And the answer is. . . .

Posted by ACBDB | February 26, 2008 3:29 PM

@ 39

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
*Ignorance is Strength*

Posted by Just sayin' | February 26, 2008 3:30 PM

The post reveals ignorance.

The thread reveals utter arrogance about ignorance. who needs a basic understanding of world history and culture, anyway? who needs experience? Who needs rationalism?

In reality this is all a sign of declining hope, declining fortunes and an underlyign complete cynicism that is all the more dangerous as it is vehemently denied.

Posted by unPC | February 26, 2008 3:31 PM

I'm always torn about the idea of widespread historical literacy. On the one hand, I like the idea of people basing their decisions on previous precedent. On the other hand, the places where there's the most seething ethnic resentment usually know their history all too well. Witness Kosovo, the Shi'a/Sunni divide, and Southern Partisan magazine.

Posted by Gitai | February 26, 2008 3:32 PM

Agreed, UnPC.

And if it weren't for my Adult Attention Deficit Disor


Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 26, 2008 3:34 PM

Some of you need the answers?!?!?!?


Now I know who buys all those "Dummies" books.

Posted by michael strangeways | February 26, 2008 3:35 PM

I distinctly remember back in the 80's the headlines were "Kids today don't know which half of the 1900's the Civil War happened." A bunch of people whose VCRs constantly blinked 12:00 lamented that my generation would fail because we weren't prepared for our high tech future. Today the people saying our young people are ignorant are the same old fuds who are helpless to clean the spyware off their PCs.

After you've been out of high school a few years, you'll have seen this same old Civil War chestnut dusted off a few times, and then you'll realize this is just a canard used by somebody with an agenda.

Posted by elenchos | February 26, 2008 3:36 PM

and Titanic was a film back in the black and white film days .... you mean the 2nd color sequel ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 3:41 PM

Spyware? PC? what sort of code are you using.

Posted by ouch | February 26, 2008 3:43 PM

@50 - how's your highways doing, by the way?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 3:54 PM

All your Buck Rogers is belong to me.

Posted by BDBDBD | February 26, 2008 3:56 PM

For unPC @59:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

Posted by krzysz | February 26, 2008 3:57 PM

Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?

What's the matter with kids today?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 26, 2008 3:58 PM

Will, you are supposed to breath out the helium at some point.

Posted by ouch | February 26, 2008 4:01 PM

I read the actual report found here:
I didn't trust USA Today. The study simply called 1,200 people 17 years of age.

How accurate is this? It seems that this report has more to do with a political agenda than anything else. That agenda, teach more liberal arts.

That's ok, but what is really lacking is a fundamental understanding of our government and legal system. Knowing who wrote a story for elite Victorian English people is nice, but not as important as knowing how to wade through our court system and government.

Americans know very little about civics, government and law. Folks have no clue how to find a law or even how to contact their government officials.

At a minimum, schools should show students where the legal statutes are located and how to read them, or how to contact their state senator. It isn't as difficult as people think, it's just not taught.

Posted by medina | February 26, 2008 4:04 PM

A telephone survey of 17-year-olds? If I was 17 and taking a test anonymously, I'd answer all of the questions as stupidly as possible. Then I would read the DANGER: DUMB KIDS! report and laugh.

Posted by CG | February 26, 2008 4:24 PM

(now that I've been flamed for trying to repeat the answer key from memory)

So who's this Ralph Emerson guy?

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 4:28 PM

Admit it: the only reason people remember the date for Columbus is because of the rhyme "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492." hehe (That is how the rhyme goes, right?!?...gah, I'm bad at providing any evidence that I know things.)

Posted by Kristin | February 26, 2008 5:19 PM

Alright. This is what always gets to me about this sort of test. The America-centric nature of them.

Who else but Americans could be this self-centered that nearly every question relates to their own history? From the sample questions listed, only two (the one relating to Hitler and the one relating to George Orwell) were from beyond North America.

I have heard that when Bush was elected, he had never traveled outside the states. If this is true, and if American history is the only history American kids are learning in schools, is it any wonder that the rest of the world is fed up?

Posted by kmonkey | February 26, 2008 5:36 PM

@73, he was teh guy draw in those "where's waldo" books

Posted by Bellevue Ave | February 26, 2008 5:39 PM

Comte @ 24,

No doubt, but I wanted to draw an apples to apples comparison. This was a test of high school kids, not middle aged heads of state, after all.

Posted by Matt from Denver | February 26, 2008 5:58 PM

But, what I want to know, is when was it that Jesus rode the dinosaurs?

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 26, 2008 6:04 PM

Frankly, those numbers don't sound all that bad to me. The questions they put up on that article have students answering 5 out of 6 questions about 70%. So, more than 2/3 got them correct... that's hardly shocking.

Posted by wench | February 26, 2008 6:28 PM

Q. What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
A. Dunno. I wasn't watching the show then.

Posted by Toe Tag | February 26, 2008 6:42 PM

Sure, it's dispiriting that kids don't know these facts, but I'm more worried about kids who can't read, discuss ideas, or do basic math.

Posted by cassandra | February 26, 2008 8:17 PM

I'm Canadian and I graduated in 1986. The one question I wouldn't have gotten as a teen was the Walt Whitman one, but I've learned the answer since then... by watching The Simpsons.


Posted by Natalie | February 26, 2008 10:28 PM

@18: Yes, schools had been emphasizing critical thinking over random factoids (of course, standardized testing is changing that). A person who knows who to solve problems can learn facts for themselves, whereas a person who knows random facts still won't be able to deal with new situations.

Factoids:Critical Thinking::Giving a man a fish:Teaching a man to fish.

Posted by AnonymousCoward | February 27, 2008 12:07 AM

@ 83. I agree. As a current highschool student, I must say, we DO learn all these things in school. The problem is many kids aren't encouraged/ given critical thinking skills to learn outside of school. If you are learning a fact to pass next weeks test, it wont stay past last weeks test. I knew all these questions only because I read/learn outside of school too, so I learn in context, and the facts stay in my head. Its the same reason you can take a language 8 years and learn jack shit, while someone living in a country for a year will learn to speak fluently. Or why I never forget how to multiply, whereas I already forgot EVERYTHING from algebra 2 last year. I use multiplication. I've never had a chance to use algebra. You wont retain things if you dont have a context to put them in.

Posted by Caitlin | February 27, 2008 11:01 AM

@75: I remember reading that about Bush too, way back when he first took office. I've never been able to verify it, and other people I tell about it think I'm wrong. I've come to the conclusion that I must have just read a poorly written article about his first trip abroad as president, not in general. At least, I HOPE that's what I really read.

I of course knew all of the answers today, and would have at 17, too. I don't know how telling it is that so many kids missed the ones about 1984 and the Walt Whitman -- I wasn't assigned Whitman until junior year and 1984 was assigned only in AP English senior year -- but its sad that so many missed the history questions.

I'm also not sure if I think it's particularly worrisome that most teenagers didn't know what "Invisible Man" was about. I didn't read that until I was about 22 and my friend's father was so surprised that I'd never read it that he grabbed his own copy and made me take it.

All that being said, I'm working on a project about NCLB right now, and I could rant about it for hours on end.

Posted by Jo | February 27, 2008 11:20 AM

I remember reading the same thing about Bush-Mexico was the only foreign country he'd visited when he was elected President. Amazing that someone so privileged could be so incurious.

Posted by Cassandra | February 27, 2008 11:38 AM

Hmmm as a Canuck I managed all but the poetry question. Which is kind of annoying as I never took American history but do have an English degree....

Posted by Sven | February 27, 2008 1:28 PM

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