Are Americans stupid? — 27 Comments

  1. I suppose it’s what you can expect from a country that grants university scholarships on the basis of how far you can throw a football?

  2. That’s just sccary, but you could quite easily find the same number of Irish people who wouldn’t know the first thing about Americans, or know where Iraq or Iran are on the map.

    I have to admit, the funniest part was when people really though Australia was Iran/Korea/wherever just because it said it on the map. Oh dear.

  3. Sorry the interviewer in the film didn’t have the opportunity to speak to any of the following “Stupid” Americans:

    Bill Gates
    Doctors and staff at the Jonas Salk Institute
    Neil Armstrong
    Hillary Clinton
    The staff at Google Earth
    Oprah Winfrey
    Noam Chomsky
    Thomas Friedman at the New York Times
    The engineers and designers at Boeing

    You know very well that I could go on and on but you get the picture.

  4. Nine in ten American high school students can’t find Russia on a map. For fuck’s sake, they spend sixty years trying to threaten the Red Menace into submission, almost turning us all into radioactive vapour in the process, and now they can’t even find Russia on the map?

    If Osama bin Laden said he was going to live in Ireland, they’d probably bomb Norway. Good ole’ U S of A.

  5. Some friendly Delta Force commandos have just burst through my window, and I say under my own free will that America kicks ass and George W. Bush is a wonderful and benevolent leader, and that you, Grandad, should take your comments back. USA! USA!

  6. As I said in my post, I don’t think all Americans are stupid. However, I thought I’d let them speak for themselves.
    And don’t get me onto the subject of Bill Gates. That fella has screwed up my PC more times than I care to remember. Twit!

  7. Don’t worry Dario. Just give the Delta Force lads a can of Guinness. They’re not used to real drink and will be putty in your hands.
    That’s what I did with the CIA and we are good friends now.

  8. Thank you for making my day. I have literally laughed away a splitting headache I’ve had all day!!! In fairness to our American friends, if you had a camera and took to the streets of an average town in Ireland you would probably be able to compile a similar video!

  9. I have seen this blog as many things over the months – a time waster, a catharsis, a way of making friends [and enemies], a source of amusement, but a cure for headaches? Wow! That’s a good one. 🙂
    I completely agree about filming in Ireland. Just go into the Dáil bar!!

  10. Grandad,

    As the nuns in my old Philadelphia parochial school used to tell me: “It’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools.” Bill Gates is not responsible for the fact that you don’t have a lot of luck with your PC.
    Millions of us have no trouble with our operating system. What is your problem?

  11. Hi Nancy,
    Actually I do have a lot of luck with my PC. It works perfectly. It’s Windows I have the problem with – Blue screens, program crashes, viruses [aimed at the vulnerabilities in Windows], having to reboot frequently, need I go on? My friends who run Linux or Macs don’t seem to have these problems.
    You are right about the carpenter and his tools. If I did stupid things with my programs, it would be my fault. But if the carpenter’s power drill keeps bursting into flames, or drilling where it’s not aimed, who is the carpenter to blame?

  12. ack. what a distressing video. of course, he only included the people who said stupid or inflammatory or truly bizarre things. i’m hoping that he interviewed a lot of other people who knew that buddhist monks are, well, um, buddhist.

    i do think that the educational system in the US is deeply flawed and is largely to blame. government funding gets trimmed every year, teachers are paid very badly, and most people i know pay a lot of money to send their children to expensive private schools to ensure that they actualy learn something.

    we’re fast ending up with a two-tier society: rich and poor, educated and ignorant. and that second tier is much bigger than the first.

    my father (a university professor) always maintained that the government wanted it that way. uneducated masses are much easier to fool, and to lead.

  13. I completely agree with you Laurie. I’m sure there was a little editing done here and there!
    But you are spot on about the educational system. Not knowing where a country is or how many sides a triangle has is not stupidity – it’s poor education. If I can’t speak Latin, it’s not because I’m thick [I’ll let others be the judge of that] – it’s because I had a crap Latin teacher.
    So, “Are Americans Stupid?” should really be “Is the American Educational System Useless?”. It seems that it does have its flaws!!

  14. i’ve been listening lately to RTE documentaries and other programs on my ipod. one thing that strikes me is how articulate everyone is on these programs. most of the people interviewed are regular Joes–old guys who went off to Scotland for work in the 1940s, or fishermen who go out daily in boats, or musicians who play in bands, whatever… not people who are accustomed to being interviewed, or even people who necessarily have advanced degrees.

    and yet there is a real thoughtfulness behind what they say, and a power in the way they say it. they think, and then they speak. it’s rather beautiful. i know this sounds simple and ordinary, but it is not a given over here, i’m afraid. i think it would be harder to do those shows over here.

  15. I think you have hit on a profound philosophical point there, Laurie. The Irish always seem to have had a love affair with language. Possibly it stems from the original Gaelic which is a very beautiful poetic language, and the love of the power of the word carried into English.
    I think the Irish in general have an inbuilt love of ‘playing’ with the language, and producing fantastic expressions and verbal gymnastics [the ‘Blarney Stone’ syndrome?]. It’s not even down to education. It seems to be inbuilt in the psyche. This should be the subject for a thesis for someone?
    Maybe I’ll blog about it sometime? Maybe it’s too serious a subject for this weird blog? Time will tell….

  16. i’m pretty interested in all that and i would love it if you could blog thoughtfully on that topic. i took a day-long course in Irish language a year ago, not to learn it, of course, but because i hoped to learn a few basics of pronunciation so that when i came across irish phrases i could at least say them in my head. not a chance; far too complicated. i do remember, though, how to say hello.

    i’m interested, too, in the speech patterns–why it’s common for irish people to use the word “after”; i know there’s a gaelic reason but i’ve forgotten now. (as in, “he’s always after going down to the pub.” what purpose does the word “after” serve?)

    anyway, i’m not trying to turn your very readable and entertaining blog into a linguistics site.

    but i hope you do know that there are plenty of americans who are thoughtful, articulate, and (i think this was one of your main points, if i’m not mistaken) interested in the rest of the world.

  17. Of course there are articulate and thoughtful Americans. Probably millions of them.
    Good question about ‘after’. It could come from the Irish ‘tá me tar éis smaoineamh’ Which would translate as “I am after thinking”, which implies it was in the recent past, as distinct from “I was thinking” which could have been last year. I’m not an Irish scholar alas.

  18. theres a difference between going to school to learn and learning to think at school. i think where our american friends fall down is the latter. are they thought to think ? anyone can learn things off by heart for example, but understanding is the key to developing the mind.

  19. well, that’s definitely true, rambling man. are you taught criticial thinking in ireland? my memories of public school in the US are that you’re rewarded for being obedient and for not making waves.

    i remember in school the biggest concern was this: “do we need to know this for the test?”

    if the answer was no, we didn’t bother with it, no matter how important the teacher might have thought it was.

    they have to “teach to tests,” you know, because state aid and other things are tied to how well students do on standardized tests. that’s what bush’s “no child left behind” is all about–test scores. if students don’t do well on the tests, the school is penalized. so teachers are frantic to stuff information into heads, and it has to be precisely the same information that matches up with the questions on the tests.

    anyway….i have co-opted your blog. sorry. it’s an interesting blog! i’ve been to ireland four or five times (my grandmother was irish, of course, all american grandmothers are irish, right?) and i enjoy reading your thoughts. even when you’re poking fun at my country.

    oh, and one other thing: i’ll tell you about the grand canyon some time, if you like. i bet it wont’ be what you expect.

  20. I did about 5 years in the public education system in America. My Dad just about had a coniption when we learned that World War II started in 1941! I was in third grade when we moved over and the kids could barely read. I’d just finished Jane Eyre (which admittedly made little sense to a nie year old, but I read it nonetheless) and they were barely through the last Dick and Jane book! LOL! But I will say they were ahead of me when it came to maths and science. I think we had just finishing what was alive – an animal and what was not – a rock!!! But one of the reasons we moved back to Ireland was to get our kids a decent education, although I just found out I should have put their names on school waiting lists? Oops…

  21. I have just found a lovely web site which I have to browse. It is so American it is great. Every page I read, I get a laugh. Watch this space – I will be posting about it in the near future…..

  22. Other than light comic relief, I cant see what all of the fuss is about the video. Plenty of Irish people are pretty thick and ignorant of international affairs. If we did interviews around the country and then edited them down to only the stupid answers then we could have another right old laugh.

    What is the Irish interest in trying to demonstrate how stupid Americans are? I just dont get it. Maybe to try to avoid our own “stupid Paddy” stereotype? Inferiority complex?. If the real reasons why we hate Americans are their political choices, then so be it, but it would be a much more compelling argument to debate the topics than using the arrogant and simplistic approach of presuming that people who have different opinions and viewpoints politically are stupid. This video is just a joke, or else propaganda.

  23. Light comic relief, Navdia.

    I completely agree about making an edited video in just about any country.

    On the other hand, I think most people should know how many sides a triangle has, or where Australia is?!

  24. Last time I went to the US (South Carolina) I was looking for a money exchange bureau as I had some cash (euros) I had brought from home (Italy). After lot of asking I thought I had found the right place. I went there and told the guy (one, but he looked as if they were four, if you know what I mean) I wanted to exchange euros for dollars. he looked at me and said with a puzzled face “what kind of money is that?” I informed him it was european money. He replied they only handled “spanish money”. “Mexican, you mean?” I asked and he went “yeah, whatever”.

    Way before that, right after the train attacks in Spain, some American friends I have (who’ve always known I am Italian) called me to ask whether me and my family were ok. it was nice and thoughtful, I admit, but I couldn’t help pointing out Spain and Italy are NOT the same country. they apologised and said “but they look so close on a map…..”

  25. Well, you must admit – it is only a few inches from New York to San Francisco. It is on my map anyway.

    Actually, since I wrote this, I have corresponded with quite a few Americans, and not all of them are thick. Just a few very loud ones!

  26. It would appear I’m three years late, but I’ve only just found your blog and I’d like to put my piece of mind in the mix regardless. For starters, I should state that I am American.

    I graduated from university nearly a year ago. My first year at university, I was enrolled in an English Composition class–you know, composing papers…using the English language. Now, I know what they say about assuming (makes an ass of you and me) but everyone in my class was born and raised in the US and [American] English was their native language, and they’d just had 12 years of schooling (of course in the admittedly abysmal American education system) and had been accepted into the school. So, I thought it would be safe to assume that they would have a decent grip on the English language and could at least compose a simple five-paragraph response to a simple prompt.

    WRONG! We spent the entire semester going on about the differences between ‘to’, ‘too’ and ‘two’; ‘there’ and ‘their’; ‘then’ and ‘than’; even ‘a’ and ‘an’. It was horrific. And we had to do peer reviews…needless to say, I paid no attention to their comments on my papers after looking at theirs and not making it past the first sentence because not only was their grammar, usage and spelling unfathomably incorrect, but they made no sense. Someone mentioned earlier, but Americans weren’t taught to think. We were taught to regurgitate facts for tests.

    Some of us, like myself, aren’t brilliant test-takers. I can pass tests just fine, don’t get me wrong. I can memorize facts and regurgitate them better than most. But I’d like to think I actually learned a thing or two…granted, the majority of what I’ve learned have been things I learned outside of school because my hunger for knowledge and information just was not satisfied at school.

    I would agree with you that not all Americans are stupid–I’m not. And I know several others that aren’t. But it’s a fairly accurate generalization to assume Americans are stupid.

    Anyway, though it’s three years late, that’s it. And I enjoy your blog! Thanks 🙂

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