Ok...so apparently we may not be the smartest , but we're still, uh, american exceptionalists.
This video is often sad and funny at the same time. I'm very glad this was made in a majority white school (though many participants are of different ethnic backgrounds) because if the students were primarily black and brown there are many people whom would probably shake their heads and say,"see...you can't teach 'em nothing". But is the premise of the video really fair? Even though the answers to these questions ought to be rote and easily remembered, we are not testing for historical facts in schools. We want students to be able to read, write, and calculate. That's what is tested. Though we teach history in schools, as the article mentions, history is deemphasized in testing. We as a nation need to make important changes in what we are teaching because while it's great to be able to read, write and calculate, if we don't understand what and why we're reading, writing and calculating...well, then it's all for nothing. Furthermore, basic civics, like basic finance, should be included in our curriculum for all students. My 8 year-old daughter is learning how to calculate by using money and financial transactions in her homework. It's scary that this type of basic financial education will most likely stop after elementary school.
BTW, that these adolescents don't know basic civics is not just their fault (because it is their fault. They should know this stuff); it's OUR fault as parents, educators and as a culture. If we deem certain facts important, then we should make sure they are learned; if not in school then at home, in our churches and through our media references. Just like in kids shows, why not just slip in historical references into ads during "Gossip Girl"? It can't be that hard. We are supposed to be an exceptional nation. So write some exceptional stuff which appeals to teenagers yet doesn't beat them over the head with it, make sure we convey to them the important facts we want them to know. The Cosby Show, for example, made all sorts of references to jazz and child rearing. Conveying cultural information was one of the key points of the show, in addition to first class entertainment.
If people don't know these basic facts about our society, how can they participate fully as citizens once they become adults? And how can we continue to cling to our self-anointed role of the exceptional people in the world if we don't even know the countries which border ours? Ah..'tis a puzzlement (see: Siamese King from My Fair Lady)