Are Czechs smarter than Americans? /Jsou Cesi chytrejsi nez Americane? Are Czechs smarter than Americans? | Czechmatediary

Are Czechs smarter than Americans? /Jsou Cesi chytrejsi nez Americane?

idiot_v_genius google imageRemember we had that heated discussion in one of my posts about  Americans and their poor knowledge of geography? You guys ended up leaving 102 (!!) comments! Jamie was one of those involved commentators who kept pursuing the idea that there is NO difference between us and the Americans as far as general knowledge goes. He also promised to send me a research paper on exactly this issue and he kept his word! Here is most of the article, although I could not fit in all of the questions. But you get the idea..

CZ: Pamatujete si , jak jsem jednou psala clanek o Americanech a o jejich spatnych znalostech zemepisu? Vyvolal takovou diskuzi, ze jsme skoncili se 102 komenty!!! Jednim z komentatoru byl Jamie, ktery tvrdil, ze vseobecne znalosti Cechu a Americanu jsou na stejne urovni. Take nam slibil odborny clanek, ktery jeho hypotezu pry potvrzuje. Jamie dodrzel slovo a clanek poslal. Zde je ho vetsina, ale vsechny otazky se mi tam bohuzel vmestnat nepovedlo.


Author: Vladimír Kajlík

Periodically, readers are showered with newspapers articles decrying progressive decline if not outright abysmal state of American public education. The conclusion, usually supported by various sorts of statistical “knowledge surveys”, provides presumably ample evidence for such a decline. There would be not much to report if we just assembled such articles from Europe and America to state the facts and to confirm assumed trends.

If general public education in America is as bad as it is claimed, how come then that America, which presumably, provides the worst kind of public education, performs so well when it comes to international ratings, producing the best of academic results. Further, if the American students are as “clueless” as the survey discussed in this paper suggests, then why not to subject European students to the same treatment and see how well they will cope with this “elementary school stuff”.

In 1996 The American magazine published educational survey conducted by The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (RCPOR), providing the hard data for the argument that “Nearly 90% of the … American college graduates would fail a simple quiz on material for elementary school students.”

The original survey consists of 20 questions in roughly five topic groups, the first group covers knowledge of civics, i.e. basic knowledge about the nation’s political leaders, about current political landscape (political parties, dominating issues, etc.), second group of questions covers history, historically oriented questions inquiring about common Western heritage. The third group of questions quizzes the knowledge of literature (again in broader European context). The fourth group tests basic knowledge of geography and finally, the fifth group of questions addresses knowledge of elementary math. (J. Herrick 1996)

We translated the American survey into Czech language and then adjusted few questions to make it more “domestic” and thereby more palatable to Czech students. (Thus for instance, if the question was “Who was the president of the USA at the beginning of Korean war…”, we would ask “who was the president of the Czechoslovakia at the beginning of Korean war …”, etc.).In conducting our survey, we selected a random group of High school graduates entering College or University and College/University juniors (freshmen) chosen from a random selection of Czech schools and colleges from various regions of the Czech Republic to match the Roper Center selected group of students chosen from a random selection of US Colleges and Universities.

Would you please tell me the names of four countries in Asia? /question not modified/
As for geography; only 66% American students could identify four countries of the Asia, while 91% of Czech students could do so.

EX:3 questions (out of 11)

How many US /Czech/ senators are there?
Fewer than half (44%) of US students knew the number of US senators and 57% of Czech students knew the correct answer for number of Czech senators (this number fell to 52% in 2006). Both groups of students display sharper gap of knowledge about the current political representation when it comes to specific details of the political structure.

Would you please tell me who was a president of the US /CR/ at the beginning of Korean war?
84% American students were unable to identify the US president in office at the outset of Korean war, tallied by 67% of Czech students unable to answer the same question about the Czech president (ignorance about the question in 2006 tailed the American students percentage from 1996) Students named incorrectly Czech presidents from Zapotocky to Husak.

Would you happen to know which major work first told the story of Achilles and who wrote it? /question not modified/
Only 16% of American students could answer the question about the story of Achilles and naming the author, compared to 39% of Czech students. The rest of literature question fared even worse.

Would you happen to know which major work first told the story of Achilles and who wrote it? /question not modified/
Only 16% of American students could answer the question about the story of Achilles and naming the author, compared to 39% of Czech students. The rest of literature question fared even worse.

Math: 2 questions (out of 5 total)

What is the perimeter of a room 65 feet wide and 35 feet long? /question modified to metrics/
Question on perimeter of a room: 53% of American students correct; 89% of Czech students correct.

What is the percentage equivalent of 5/3? /question not modified/
Question on percentage equivalent: 48% of American students correct; 70% of Czech students correct.If we Accept the Roper’s Center 4.5% margin of error (results within +/- 5%), then results for American students and Czech students are very close for answers in humanities, that is on cultural, political and historical questions. In respect to questions #1, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, both groups are equally knowledgeable or ignorant of their civic, political, cultural, and literary history of their countries.

The most disparate answers were revealed in questions #4, 15, 16, and 18, where Czech students fared much better in basic geography (questions #12-14) and all basic math questions (#16-20).

In an overall assessment: Czech students responded only to 5 questions worse than American students (questions #5, 7, 9, 10, and 11) out of 20. Those were questions on literature (questions #9, 10, and 11), question on the source of the phrase (question #5), and the question on the non-Christian religions (question #7).

While we find the Czech students’ answers to show somewhat better results in civics, politics, and history, the survey’s margin of error allows us to conclude a virtual parity in general knowledge (general ignorance) of students in their respective countries. This should not come as a surprise to us. As I. Illich observed already about half century ago; “[public] schools are fundamentally alike in all countries, be they fascist, democratic or socialist; big or small; rich or poor.” (I. Illich 1970)

A distinct similarity of the public educational systems around the world stems from a common heritage of European Enlightenment with its philosophical underpinning firmly anchored in French Philosophes, J. J. Rousseau in particular. Since 1850s, Europe and England strive to achieve ideal form of uniform, state run public educational systems and so it does, maybe to a lesser extent, America.

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