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  Paul's Column Archive

September 3, 2007

Miss Teen USA and the Ignorance of U.S. Americans


For those of you who missed the greatest words spoken in beauty pageant history, here is the response given by Miss Teen South Carolina in the recently held Miss Teen USA pageant to the question, “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”


She said:


“I personally believe that U.S. 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, uh, education like such as in South Africa, and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future . . . for our children.”


And this young woman serves as a role model for little girls in South Carolina and much of America. Maybe more disturbingly, she gets to vote for the people who run our country. She will probably even reproduce some day.


Now, perhaps it is not fair or very nice to pick on her. She is, after all, young and was facing a big audience that reasonably made her nervous. And she has since redeemed herself, somewhat at least, by explaining how tense she was at that moment.


But nervousness is still not an excuse to speak of “the” Iraq and bundle it with South Africa, the Asian countries and everywhere like such as. And sadly, Miss Teen South Carolina is certainly not alone in ignorance. She is one of the countless victims of our now-prevalent bigotry of low expectations.


Miss Teen Colorado was asked, verbatim: “This is an important one: So who do you prefer, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie or Lindsey Lohan, and why?”


Another judge posed a “difficult” question: “At what point in life do you think you officially become a grown up?”


“That’s a tough one,” the contestant answered, “I would say, hmm, when you can realize what is right and what is wrong without your parents’ help.”


Miss Teen North Carolina eloquently articulated that the greatest risk she took in her life was snowboarding in Canada because it’s a lot harder than in North Carolina. Miss Teen New Jersey explained that the skill most lacking in teens today was public speaking. Luckily, that answer was quite appropriate in the context of that particular evening. But on any other night, one might have questioned the urgency of public speaking deficiencies when teens in the ghetto can barely speak English.


So why can’t so many Americans locate the U.S. on a world map? First of all, for the record, no reliable poll has demonstrated that as many as a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S., and Miss Teen USA has yet to make a convincing case backing up that question. But it is unfortunately true that many people are ignorant about geography, among many other subjects.


It could be because they don’t have maps. Or, it could be because we have a dreadful education system where students are held hostage by self-interested, unionized teachers. It could be because the low expectations we set for students allow them time to watch “The Real World” on MTV and follow the adventures of Paris Hilton. It could be because America has given Americans so much comfort and has so shielded them from foreign threat that the rest of the world has become irrelevant to many.


According to a recent poll by the Harris Poll group, two-thirds of American adults admit to being ignorant about world political issues, while only one third is well-informed about political issues in the U.S. According to a Rasmussen poll, more than a quarter of Americans don’t know that the Iraq War has cost fewer lives than the Vietnam War. And these are “U.S. Americans!” They’re not even EU Americans or USSR Americans.


Before all of these ignorant Americans make fun of an 18-year-old girl for botching an answer to the toughest question posed in the Miss Teen USA pageant, I would like to see them point out the U.S. on a map.


Before they sound off their opinions on the Iraq War, I would like to hear them explain the intricacies of the situation in the Middle East, or at least ballpark the number of U.S. soldiers who have given their lives to it in comparison to previous wars.


Before they go out and vote, I would like them to understand how our government works, and more importantly, take an economics class. I would like them to understand what the Laffer Curve is, what Al Qaeda leaders are saying and what socialized medicine has done to places like Canada and others.


Of course, we can help them achieve this by ignoring the teachers’ unions and embracing school vouchers, thus greatly improving the quality of our education so we will be able to build up our future . . . for our children.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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