Friday, June 30, 2006

Culture Quiz

Recently the results of a student cultural survey have come in after being tabulated and analyzed here at Lenoir-Rhyne College among a cross section of students. The questionnaire included 20 questions ranging across topics from classical and popular music to film and literature, politics, geography, and current events. Here are a sampling of the questions with some of the tabulated results:

1. J.S. Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven are two great classical composers whose names begin with a "B." Can you name another great classical composer whose name also begins with a "B"? (Answ. Brahms, Berlioz, Bizet, etc. are all correct)
87.2% could not answer this question. Of the 12.8% who succeeded in answering this question, the vast majority (83.3%) could not identify the newest American Idol (Question #20).
2. Who wrote The Great Gatsby? (Answ. F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Only 19.1% answered this question correctly.
5. When asked to match the band or artist with the song, 90.5% of respondents could not make the matches, which included Elvis, Green Day, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and The Velvet Underground.

8. When asked to correctly match the work of art with the artist, 19.1% of respondents matched Rodin's sculpture, 'The Thinker,' with Michelangelo, 8.5% with Van Gogh, 6.4% with Breugel, 6.4% with Renoir, 4.3% with Joan Miro, 4.3% with Monet, and 2% with Leonardo da Vinci.

9. "I am a country called Chad. I am located on which continent?" (Answ. Africa)
53.2% answered this question correctly. On the other hand, of the 48.9% who got this question wrong, 26.1% identified Chad as being in South America, 8.7% said it was in Asia, and 4.3% each said it was in Europe and in Asia Minor.
11. "I am Paris Hilton's former best friend, and I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Adam Goldstein (AKA D.J. AM). Who am I?" (Answ. Nicole Ritchie)
68.1% (the highest percentage of correct answers) answered this question correctly.
12. "I am the current Secretary of Defense. Who am I?" (Answ. Donald Rumsfeld)
89.4% did not answer this question correctly. Of those who attempted but did not answer correctly, 11.9% identified the Secretary of Defense as Condoleezza Rice, 7.14% thought it was Colin Powell, and other answers included Tom Daschle, Dick Cheney at 2.4% each.
13. Who wrote The Nutcracker Suite? (Answ. Tchaikovsky)
Only 10.6% answered this question correctly.
14. Name one Right granted by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Answ. Right to remain silent, not to incriminate oneself)
48.9% were able to answer this question correctly.
15. When asked to match the film with its director, 4.3% of respondents matched Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather with Robert Altman. Other matches included Woody Allen, Ed Wood, and Terry Gilliam (2% each).

19. Name the capital of the state that is directly East of North Carolina. (Answ. No such state exists.)
46.8% were unable to answer this question correctly. Of those who attempted to answer the question but did not do so correctly, 22.7% identified the capital as Nashville, 9.1% identified it as Knoxville, and other answers included Raleigh, Richmond, and Roanoke, VA (4.5% each).
20. Our newest American Idol is ... (Answ. Taylor Hicks)
63.8% answered this question correctly. Of these, only 3.3% were able to identify a classical composer whose name begins with "B" (Question # 1).
______________________

Generalizations & Inferences:

a) Students know their rights (#14)
b) Students know current pop culture celebrities very well (##11, 20)
c) Students do not know American geography (#19) (State East of North Carolina)
d) About half of all students do not know world geography well (#9)
e) Students do not know classical music, art, and literature (##1, 2, 8, 13)
f) Students do not know historical popular culture (##5, 15)
g) Most students have little acquaintance with the details of world politics (#12)

Northerners may be inclined to make snide remarks about such results in a southern liberal arts college. However, over half of our students are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and other states located outside the traditional 'south.' My hunch is that such patterns of cultural oblivion as represented here are pandemic throughout the United States.


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