- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2004

Oh, those “stupid Yanks,” those “stupid Americans.”

We’ve taken a drubbing for a while now in press reports that paint Americans as dim bulbs with big mouths, big cars and lousy foreign policy.

The threads of this ongoing America-bashing include differences over the war on terrorism and resentment of American culture in general and President Bush in particular.

Anti-American sentiment grew so piquant in Britain that Lord Carey of Clifton — the former Archbishop of Canterbury — called for an end to it while praising the “wonderful innocence and independence” of Americans, the London Times reported Nov. 24.

But a new survey reveals that the duh factor is not confined to these shores, Jessica Simpson notwithstanding. The British are not exactly the sharpest tools in the drawer themselves.

Sixty-five percent of Brits could not figure out which U.S. city served as the setting for the hit musical “Chicago,” according to a survey of 1,000 British adults released yesterday by the London-based broadcast network Channel 4.

Such geographical shortcomings are not limited to musicals.

Another 57 percent could not quite figure out which city was the setting for the famous American TV series “Dallas,” while 66 percent could not identify the setting for “Streets of London,” a tune by balladeer Roger Whittaker.

Things also were a little hazy for the British on the European continent. The survey found that 70 percent could not identify the host city for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

More than two-thirds — 67 percent — did not know the year World War II ended. Another 64 percent did not know which country the French Alps were located in.

The complete survey will be featured in tomorrow’s broadcast of “Beat the Nation,” a daily British quiz show that claims to be Britain’s “fairest” by pretesting all questions on 1,000 persons, then ranking them for difficulty. The survey was conducted by YouGov, a London-based market research group.

To be fair, the British are not the only folks who are geographically challenged.

In its own survey of 300 persons between ages 18 and 24 released in November 2002, America’s own National Geographic Society found that 87 percent could not point out Iraq on a world map. Three out of 10 could not find the Pacific Ocean.

The young Americans ranked second to last in the poll, able to identify only seven of 16 countries in a map quiz. Swedes ranked first, identifying 13 of 16, with Germans and Italians next, at a dozen each.

“Someone once said that war is God’s way of teaching geography. Apparently, war or even the threat of war cannot adequately teach it,” National Geographic President John Fahey said at the time.

“More American young people can tell you where an island on the ‘Survivor’ television series is than can identify Afghanistan or Iraq,” he added.

That poll has been quoted repeatedly by a gleeful global press since its release.

At least one British official agrees that his countrymen, well, can use some smarts.

Former Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead told the BBC on Friday that “most Brits are not bright enough for university.”

The British government would like at least half of those between 18 and 30 to get a degree — up from the 2 percent who went to college in the years following World War II.

“I don’t think that 50 percent of people are actually able to study an academically demanding degree,” Mr. Woodhead said.


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