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One day, I was sitting around at work surrounded by peers. Being unpredictable for a few hours, I randomly asked someone near me if they knew the capital of Burma. They didn't. I asked about Thailand. No idea. I asked about Ontario. No clue. I asked about California (California!). "Uhh...San Diego?".

As I repeated these simple questions to other nearby students, the realization began to sink in that maybe other people didn't know all the capitals that I did. I started asking about relative locations of countries, regions, forms of government. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Scandinavia included the Netherlands, Indonesia was a sub-continent, and the world's most populated city was New York City. I soon determined that, as noted by countless muckrackers and pseudoeducators before me, American knowledge of geography is absolutely abysmal.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't tutoring in the basement of an elementary school. I was tutoring in a dormitory at a university, and I was asking the other tutors. I thought everyone knew their map, points where war is occurring, points where war has occurred in the past, Japan's path during their repeated invasions of China, the location of Pakistan, the reason Alaska is the least populous US state. I started to wonder if I was insane.

Surely most people know something about the world around them. Surely that tabloid news show someone quoted to me about 50% of American elementary school students being unable to locate their own country on an unlabeled world map was exaggerated, wrong. Surely I'm just asking the wrong people.

I'm not one to pass up a good opportunity for amateur statistical analysis. I created a primitive, but possibly effective, experiment to determine mean basic geographical knowledge at a randomly chosen Arizona university. My study will even be biased in favor of cleverer people, because that is the company I tend to keep (or at least, I like to think so). I intend to report results in a future writeup, for your perusal and, doubtless, your dismay.

However, just for kicks, I'm interested to see how the noding crowd does with the quiz I'm using. The quiz somewhat targets American citizens, as there are several questions about other English-speaking countries and states in the US. But why don't you see how many of these you know off the top of your head, and /msg me with a list of capital cities, coded by number. I will consider the noders as a separate group of subjects in a different set of calculations, as noders in no way represent a typical anything population. The list*:

  1. The former Yugoslavia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Peru
  4. Mexico
  5. Canada
  6. Australia
  7. Turkey
  8. Indonesia
  9. Thailand
  10. Nigeria
  11. Belarus
  12. Saudi Arabia
  13. Iraq
  14. Nova Scotia
  15. Macedonia
  16. Colombia
  17. Vermont
  18. Louisiana
  19. North Korea
As a side note, only 1 of the 10 people surveyed so far knew that North Korea was run by a communist regime, and they had no idea what the capital was anyways.
* The place names aren't linked on purpose. It's easy to cheat here, but I'm not going to make it that easy.

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