Column this week EXAMS!!!!!!!!
Did anyone see the Miss Teen USA pageant recently? It’s not that strange a question to be asking this I think, because if I remember ANYTHING about TV back home it’s the plethora of mindless North American programming we’re spoon fed like so much nutrient free slop. And if I remember two things about TV back home it’s how much the average viewer laps up this slop, even while complaining about it and going back for more.
And as an aside, if the fact that I’ve written North American programming as opposed to just plain American programming struck you as a bit strange, I’ll explain. It has been pointed out to me by a number of South Americans that they consider it offensive when people refer to the USA as America, since America in fact refers to the entire continent of which the US is actually a small part. Well, when compared to the rest. So, duly noted and corrected. It’s a valid point and since it makes me tizzy when someone refuses to acknowledge the individuality of the various Caribbean islands, lumping us all together like so many potatoes in a crocus bag, I’ll try to extend the same consideration from now on.
So to continue with my story, the highlight of the show was the answer by Miss South Carolina, an eighteen year old named Lauren Caitlin Upton. And doesn’t that name just sound all American and perky and blonde and sky blue cheerleader uniformish with a boyfriend named Brett? Miss Upton’s question was, “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?” And this is where the excitement began.
Miss Upton’s response, verbatim, was, “I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and I believe that they should, our education over here in the US should help the US, er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children.”
Now in case anyone thinks I actually sat down and watched this mind numbing spectacle, let me state emphatically I didn’t. The only mind numbing spectacle I watch is The X Factor, which is like American idol only with stranger people auditioning with really bad teeth. The video clip of her response has been making the rounds of the Internet, like a bag of red mango in class after lunch, only less salty. My original response when I saw this clip was incredulity. What exactly was she trying to say? And what does South Africa have to do with the lack of maps, really? At least she got two out of the four all important words in: “future” and “children”. Unfortunately, she didn’t manage to work in “world peace”.
Perhaps even more interesting is the reaction. An increasing number of people are coming out in her defence, saying that not only was her question pretty hard, but hers was actually quite a good answer. If that’s a good answer, would someone PLEASE send me the link to a bad one!? I’ve done some research myself, because I obviously don’t have enough to do when the day comes, and found some even more shocking statistics like the one Miss South Carolina couldn’t respond properly to.
A National Geographic survey done in the USA in 2006 revealed that half of young people aged 18-24 couldn’t find the state of Mississippi on a world map. Only fourteen per cent think that it’s important to be able to speak another language fluently and one third didn’t know what direction North West is on a map. In fact, 48% couldn’t find New York on a map and think Sudan –the largest country in Africa – is in Asia. Forty eight per cent also believe that the majority of the population in India is Muslim.
But before we start laughing and talking about “those stupid Americans” let’s be honest with ourselves. How many of us can speak Spanish, with Venezuela being a hop, skip and a jump away? Everytime I mention to a Trini that I can speak Spanish the response is what I can best describe as subdued awe, like I’ve admitted I have a third nipple. Quick, tell me where Rampanalgas is? Biche? Sangre Chiquito? And that’s in our own county. What’s our area and geographic co-ordinates? To save you from looking them up it’s 5,128 sq km and 1100 N, 6100 W. And yes, I had to look them up too.
The thing is, I knew all this stuff when I wrote Common Entrance, as we all must. So I guess this just confirms what I’ve always suspected. I was smarter back then than I am now. At least, I would have been better equipped to give Miss Upton a hand.
Or at least a geography lesson.