Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Iowa, Ohio, Uzbekistan...whatever

They know how to set up TiVo. They can text-message, pop open a Red Bull and drive 90 down the tollway simultaneously. But can America's young adults find Iraq on a map?


Yet another survey has found that 2/3 of America's young adults are geographically clueless. These are some of the questions asked of participants in the Roper Public Affairs study. Test yourself! (Answers at the end.)

1) Which of the ranges on this card contains the correct population of the United States today?
A. 10 million - 50 million
B. 150 million - 350 million
C. 500 million - 750 million
D. 1 billion - 2 billion
E. Don't know

2) In which of these countries did a catastrophic earthquake occur in October 2005, killing over 70,000 people?
A. Sri Lanka
B. Japan
C. Pakistan
D. Mexico
E. Don't know

3) If it is noon in New York, New York, what time is it in Los Angeles, California?
A. 3:00 a.m.
B. 9:00 a.m.
C. Noon
D. 3:00 p.m.
E. Don't know

4) The most heavily fortified border in the world exists between which two countries?
A. China and Russia
B. United States and Mexico
C. North Korea and South Korea
D. Syria and Lebanon
E. Don't know

5) Which city would be LEAST likely to be threatened by a tsunami?
A. Honolulu, United States
B. Manila, Philippines
C. Tokyo, Japan
D. Mexico City, Mexico
E. Don't know

Correct Answers: 1. B; 2. C; 3. B; 4. C; 5. D


Blogger IB a Math Teacher said...

I wonder how many adults, say 25-80 years old, can answer such questions. I doubt that it is much more.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guilty as charged

11:54 AM  
Anonymous JohnO said...

I'm 23 and I only got the earthquake one wrong :)

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 18 and I only got the population one wrong:)

1:25 PM  
Anonymous lauren said...

I'm 18 and I got them all. These are really things anyone would know just by reading a local or national newspaper daily. Maybe that should be a part of modern schooling?

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Garnigal said...

I'm 30 and got them all right.

When I was 13, my uncle was head of his Rotary chapter. He was interviewing teens who had applied to go overseas on a Rotary-funded exchange. He was appalled by how few knew the names of their MPP (Provincial representative) and MP (Federal representative). When he got back from his interviews, he quizzed me to see if I knew mine (thankfully he did, or the rant would never have stopped!)

In conclusion, ignorance and apathy starts young, and it starts close to home.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Honeybee said...

I'm 24 and I missed #1. I knew we didn't have a billion people, but other than that I wasn't sure.

The rest were actually educated guesses, I wasn't solid on any of them. And I do read the news.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Karthik B said...

18, 5 of 5.

I guess staring at a globe when I was much younger helped out.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

None are particularly difficult.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whaaaaat? The border between the US and Mexico isn't the most heavily fortified border?

9:20 PM  
Blogger StyleyGeek said...

I only got the one about the time difference wrong, and I'm not American -- I could have given the time differences for any of the 5 countries I have lived in and most nearby ones.

But I fail to see how most of these are important questions. The heavily fortified border one was easy, but what's important to know is which of those borders are fortified and which are lax -- not being able to rank them in order.

It's more important to know roughly how the population of the USA compares to other countries (e.g. hugely more than Australia, hugely less than India) rather than knowing the actual numbers. Most people can't really get a grasp on numbers in the millions, anyway.

And unless you live there, plan to go there, or have some sort of connection to the place (through e.g. business), knowing the time zones of other countries, or whether cities are landlocked or on the coast is not going to ever be useful to you as more than a piece of trivia.

I think a test that checks whether young people have a grasp of the important political, environmental and social issues in the world today would show a much better result, and be of far more significance, than one that is more like a few rounds of trivial pursuit.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed only one question AND can text while driving! :)

12:54 AM  
Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I'm 37 and got them all -- although I'm sure my students wouldn't have done as well. If it weren't finals week I'd give them the quiz and post the aggregate score.

4:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

55 and got all right. when I was a Kid had a puzzle of the US states, bough my daughter the same puzzel when she was 5. we can both find and name all 50 states. have a map of the world and USA on the wall next to the computer. it's really simple to learn with a little effort.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 18, and I answered all of your questions correctly! Granted I spent the first six years of my life in Europe and could hardly be considered the "average" young adult. (I'll be attending Bryn Mawr College in the fall-- certainly not your average educational receptacle).


10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crap! I put in an extra comma. NOOOO!

10:50 AM  
Anonymous elisabeth said...

i'm 16 and got them all. i'm swedish, not american, but i've lived in the us for the past 5 years.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are so many people so pleased with themselves for knowing the answers to these questions??? The point is that these are some minimal things one should know as a functioning member of society. There is no reward for knowing them...don't be so proud of yourself, it is the bare minimum.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Gene said...

The quiz was trivial; I answered all five correctly within 20 seconds. It would've taken less time, but I had to sign for a UPS package. Then again, I am a member of the (high school) class of 1975, not 2005.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I am a young adult..Why don't they ever give me these surveys? It took me around 30 seconds to answer these simple questions, and I even managed to answer the phone while doing it! I think that they look for the most unintelligent kids out there to do these things. Oh well!

4:30 PM  
Blogger hannah said...

I'm 20, but British, so I got the US population and time zones ones wrong. Also, 5 was a guess. But a correct one.

I'm not, however, sure how well UK teenagers would do on a similar quiz. I certainly couldn't tell you the population of the UK.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 23 and I only missed the US population one.

I don't understand people missing the third one. Even if you aren't an American, it doesn't take much knowledge to know that LA is West of NY.If you know that you should know that it is earlier in LA than NY (you don't have to be American to know that the time zones west of GMT decrease by one hour in each zone). So, your only options are A and B, and surely noone would think America large enough to have ten time zones?

Maybe I'm giving the average blog-surfer too much credit.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Monica said...

19 and I got them all. If you're an educated American, there's no excuse not to. Even the population question is fairly easy to answer if you think about it logically.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:38 PM  
Blogger War Bride said...

Hello, DMZ!

(And just a friendly reminder that just because you can text while driving doesn't mean you should!) :)

1:05 AM  
Blogger David said...

I got them right, but I would like to know the source and definition of fortified border. Physical emplacements? Troops? Based on a per square mile measurement?

12:19 PM  
Blogger Angel, librarian and educator said...

Actually, I knew them, but as some have pointed out here, these are questions anyone who is somewhat informed would know, or at the very least have a sense of the answer. For the people saying that the kiddies would do better in more "relevant" things, the same survey found that a significant number of the young people could not find Iraq on a map or Afghanistan (the countries the U.S. is at war with). Worse still, a significant number could not even find Louisiana on a map, and this after Hurricane Katrina. The National Geographic has a nice digest of the survey ( which explains the survey nicely. As for knowing that LA is west of New York, it helps to know where New York is. According to the survey, "half could not find New York State on a map of the United States." And here is the actual quote about Louisiana: "A third of the respondents could not find Louisiana, and 48 percent couldn't locate Mississippi on a map of the United States, even though Hurricane Katrina put these southeastern states in the spotlight in 2005." These all come from the NG site.

It's not just "oh, it's not relevant, so we should not worry about it." Some of this is basic stuff. But don't take my word for it, go read the stuff. I did and made a note here if anyone is interested (

Best, and keep on blogging.

5:13 PM  
Blogger knibilnats said...

well i got them all right, but i understand how iraq would be hard to locate, all tucked neatly next to botswana.

11:31 PM  
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