Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Culture Quiz

When the last man to fly in space alone, Gordo Cooper, died a few months ago I was upset. The next day in school, whenever my friends and I needed a subject for conversation, I said, “Hey, you know – Gordo Cooper died yesterday.” The only response I got was: “Who’s he?”

Not a single person I talked to in school that day knew who he was.

I figured that this might reflect not only on the kids in my school but on their education, so I decided that it would be a good idea to make up a quiz that I could give to a representative sample of kids at my school, with the results appearing in the school newspaper (which I work on as a section editor). I worked with my Dad a little, and settled on the following questions:

1. Who was the first American in space?
2. Who perpetrated the Bataan Death March?
3. Who were the Khmer Rouge?
4. Name the first book of the Bible.
5. Who wrote, “With malice towards none; with charity to all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right…”
6. Who did Churchill refer to when he said “Never in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed, by so many, to so few.”?

I thought that these questions were common knowledge – and that if they weren’t, they should be. And how did the kids in my school do on this poll? I don’t know.

I don’t know, because I decided to show the questions to one of our paper’s chief editors (also a student) and he said that he didn’t like them. I discovered a couple of things that he thought were wrong: First of all, three of the questions dealt with war, and two with religion, and he didn’t like that. Secondly, he himself couldn’t answer the questions, so naturally they must be no good. I asked him if he thought it was right to interfere so much in my section; he said that it was if I was going to do such a “controversial” topic.

His reaction surprised me, because I was prepared to encounter resistance from the teachers, not the students. Nevertheless, I told my ‘chief’ that I was determined to use these questions, and I added that my intent was not to show that Amity High School kids were stupid, it was to find out how good a school we had – here we had a chance to be a real newspaper. He was skeptical, and further worried that teachers would be angry with him if I rapped the school in our paper (he also thought that I couldn’t fill up enough space with a story on that). I told him that I would take all the responsibility myself, and that if the story didn’t work out that he could fire me from the newspaper. He gave me a shaky go-ahead.

I sent the questions out to my writers that night with their assignments, and I added an additional note to one of them, whom I knew I could trust. I said in that additional note that I was worried about being sabotaged, and that if my friend got any letters from any other editors about the assignment that I’d appreciate his sending me a copy. In the meantime, my section co-editor was “urging” me not to send out my assignments.

The same evening one of my writers – the one who I could trust – forwarded me a note from my co-editor that was sent to everyone on my section, except me:

“If you have recently received an assignment for the January issue, please disregard it for now. Soon, we (meaning I and not Dan) will be notifying you of the real assignments.”

The sight of this note really steamed me, and if this co-editor had been sitting next to my computer I probably would have punched him right in his characterless nose. It’s a good thing that I didn’t, because the next day he was quick to confess that he’d been instructed to send out that note by the chief-editor that I’d started with.

That brings me up to the current point. I’ve decided to leave this until after midterms, at which point a few friends of mine with character will help me get my poll out to the students. As for the Chief, his attempt to stop this thing hasn’t gone to well – the results will appear in my column in the school newspaper, on this blog, and (who knows) maybe in another national magazine.


At 11:52 AM, Blogger MyPoint said...

great questions. nevertheless,i find myself to be pretty knowledgable and i humbly admit i do not know all those answers offhand. so do not forget to post the answers next.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Okay, here are my answers and I swear I haven't looked any of them up:

1. John Glenn
2. WWII Japanese military
3. Cambodian communist bad guys and mass murderers, educated in Paris (naturally)
4. Genesis
5. Abraham Lincoln
6. RAF fighters in Battle of Britain

It's a damn shame the editor of this newspaper considers student knowledge of these matters unimportant.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Just in case you are wondering, here are the answers:
1) Alan Shepard (John Glenn was the first American to make an orbital flight)
2)The Japanese during WWII
3)The Khmer Rouge were North Vietnamese who invaded Cambodia after the American withdrawal and murdered one third of the nation's entire population.
5)Abe Lincoln (In the 2nd Inaugural Adress)
6) The RAF on winning the Battle of Britain

At 3:27 PM, Blogger zach said...

As many of you may have noticed, this post like many of the others found on this site was one-sided. As for the real story of the stated article to appear in the January Centerspread of the Trident, I will now enlighten you. First of all, the stated Editor in Chief does have the right to meddle with your column, Editors in Chief have jurisdiction over the whole paper. Secondly, he was not the only one who did not approve of the project. Your Co-section editor, was up in arms about it before even talking to the EC. And it was not only 1, but 4 of the EC's who did not approve. Even the faculty advisor, who has the final word on what gets printed, saw no point in your requested article. Which gets me to my third point, the there was no point. The quiz was originally planned as a "survey" something which it most clearly was not. Also, it dealt with war and religion, not culture. But most of all, it had no validity as far as evaluating the school. That is the point of tests such as the CAPTS. Lastly, as to not be dubbed a "liberal pussy," I will post my name so all can see, I welcome whatever bashing and name calling comes my way.
Zach Mancher
Trident Photo Editor '05
P.S. The trait of having character is not defined based on party affiliation as suggested in the post.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Okay Zach,
First of all, the Chief Editors (all except one, you know) dissapoint me because they don't seem to be interested in reporting, or investigating. Secondly, the faculty advisor was in favor of my project, and gave me a go ahead (I never guessed that a teacher could be overridden by a student -- do you think he knows that it happened?). Nevertheless, I'm not questioning this Cheif Editor's right to meddle in my section -- I am questioning his judgement and journalistic sense.
As far as your third point goes, I don't see why you don't want to discuss war and religion -- without those two things, this country would not exist. War and religion have always defined culture.
You say that the CAPT tests evaulate our school. For those of you unfamiliar with these tests, let me explain -- they are a series of standardized tests given in Connecticut that every student must pass if he wishes to graduate from High School. IT IS A TEST THAT EVERYONE PASSES! How's that for evaulation?
The questions I picked are important ones -- if you have any suggestions, feel free to make them.
Please don't be so obtuse.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Mr. Mancher:

* The controversy here revolves around whether or not the article should have been overruled in the first place rather than who had authority to spike it. It's also noteworthy that the idea's originator offered to take the blame.

* One definition of survey is "to query (someone) in order to collect data for the analysis of some aspect of a group or area." Quizzing individual students to test their cultural knowledge passes the definition test with flying colors.

* How are questions about religion, history, or war not cultural? Items which enter into (or should enter into) common knowledge are intrinsically cultural.

* There certainly is a "point" to asking questions regarding these subjects. This is a high school and schools teach certain kinds of knowledge, which is why your history teacher never asks you to please explain, in three well-developed paragraphs, how Terry Bradshaw's brilliant quarterbacking helped win Super Bowl XIII for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

* Please don't give me any baloney about standardized tests and about how questions like these don't matter. Frankly, I think you and your fellow editors are scared of what the results might be.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Mr. Gelernter:

As for the Chief, his attempt to stop this thing hasn’t gone to well – the results will appear in my column in the school newspaper, on this blog, and (who knows) maybe in another national magazine.Heh heh. That sounds almost too perfect.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger R said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger laugher said...

Five Editors-in-chief, what kind of newspaper is this anyways? Sounds like 5 people wanted something to put something on their resumes.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger R said...

Hi everyone -
I have remained silent for a few days, but now I will post my response to this slander. My first comment will be my response as the stated Editor-in-Chief. Then I will comment as an observer.

First, many of the facts stated in this article and Dan's subsequent comments are false. He also omits many aspects of the story. Dan fails to mention that he originally called this a "culture" test. These questions do not represent the culture of a society. I'm sorry, but one cannot assess people's "culturedness" through six questions, half of which deal with war, two of which deal with religion, and one of which deals with an astronaut. There is more to culture than war and religion and astronauts, such as music and art.

As for answering the questions, I believe I could not answer a majority of them, I'm not sure of the exact number. Dan makes me look pompous by saying that because I did poorly on his culture exam, I would not allow him to proceed with his survey. This is a completely false accusation. I feel I am at least fairly-well cultured, and this assessment showed me that it obviously cannot assess someone's "culturedness." I shared the exam with many people (including teachers), and they all...and I repeat, all, found the exam to be badly written. I am not out to make myself look good.

zmanx89: As for interfering in your section, I am the supervisor of the Centerspread, and I have not only the right but the duty to approve every topic. This particular topic is especially controversial, and now I will tell you why. Dan says that his intent was not to show the stupidity of the students, but rather the quality of education present at our school. As far as I'm concerned, six questions of this caliber (and I will again repeat, 50% dealing with war, 33.3% with religion, and 16.7% with an astronaut), cannot possibly assess the quality of education at Amity. First of all, 100% are history questions, so technically it would be an assessment of the history department. One cannot assess Amity education based on one department. If we break it down further, there is more to history than war and astronauts. I don't mean to be sarcastic here, because I feel that wars and the space age are important parts of our history, but they do not begin to cover the scope of what one should learn as a history student. All that aside, what happened to the culture aspect of the test?

Now back to the omissions and lies: The advisor to the newspaper never approved Dan's topic. He did not approve of his questions. I heard that myself. For Dan to go ahead and lie to his readers presents a lack of integrity and makes me look stupid. Second, at least three of the five editors of the newspaper did not agree with the topic. Technically, I don't have to counsel them because each of us has our own jurisdiction on a specific section, but I did anyway, and they didn't like it. Finally, Dan's Centerspread co-editor did not approve of the topic from the beginning. To make him look like a coward and that he only listened to me is false and utterly upsets me. The co-editor is extremely competent and excellent at what he does. He sought my help because Dan would not listen to him. He is a person of great character, and Dan's falsely painting him as characterless makes me wonder about Dan's own character.

As an editor, why would I endorse a test that does not effectively assess Amity when it says it does? There's no point. People would think it was a joke. I thought the culture test was a great idea, I might add, but not the questions.

And also, I never gave Dan a shaky go-ahead. I told him to confer with the advisor before going ahead with the topic.

As an aside before I go ahead with the second half, the Connecticut Aptitude Performance Test (CAPT) is a test administered to all tenth-grade students in Connecticut. At Amity (which has a higher rate than most schools in CT), fewer than 50% of the students pass all four components of the exam (Reading, Writing, Science, and Math), not 100%, as is suggested by Dan.

As a friend, I am extremely offended at what you wrote about me. As stated above, many omissions and lies are present in this post. I have the right to question anything I want, and I, along with countless others, did not approve of your topic. The simple fact is that this is not the first time you have besmirched somebody's reputation. You unfairly defamed your history teacher by saying that her class was "garbage in, garbage out" in a national publication. As far as I'm concerned, she put up with your ideas very professionally the entire year, and always welcomed your comments. She is unarguably one of the best teachers I've ever had, and your article about her in the Weekly Standard was disgusting. You unfairly accused the Amity history department of choosing liberal textbooks, which is false. People now question choosing Amity as a school for their children. Is that what you wanted? Lies go a long way.

I, for one, am extremely proud of Amity. I feel I have received a great education, and for me to allow a test that will undubitably present Amity as a "bad" school is crazy. If you think Amity is sub-par, there are private options.

Both your history teacher and I have supported you even though we disagree with you. I was the one who brought you into the paper in the first place. I welcomed your column with open arms. I gladly appointed you as section editor. If it weren't for me, you'd probably be sitting in the corner too shy to speak, as you did in 10th grade. I brought you out of your shell, and you know that.

That aside, the lies do not exactly make me happy. You have no right to try to ruin my reputation as an editor to the hundreds of readers you have. Please do it to me in person, not for hundreds (or even thousands) to read. That is not right, and for someone so "moral," you don't practice what you preach. Perhaps hypocritical is the word I'm looking for. And finally, the results will appear in your next column? We'll see about that. Don't be so cocky.

Thank you,
Ryan Benjamin
Co-Editor-in-Chief, Amity Trident

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Chava said...

Hmm. I scored a 50% on those questions if I'm generous with myself. :) (Hope that doesn't ruin your image of me as being incredibly educated, cultured, historically aware, and a quiet and humble genius.) But keep it up, Dan. Through your efforts, maybe you'll get me (and some other people...) educated eventually.

The girl at Skidmore (don't laugh)

At 11:18 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Mr. Benjamin:

I'm not a student at your high school and thus can't evaluate the veracity of these "he said, he said" accusations, but I think you give the game away when you admit in the third-to-last paragraph of your post that you think it would be "crazy" to publish a poll that might put your school in a bad light (something the very best high school newspapers do not hesitate to do when necessary). If you feel that way, it's reasonable to assume that many of the people you talked to (including teachers) feel the same way. So the issue about whether or not the questions calibrate "cultural" knowledge comes off as a bit of a smokescreen.

As noted, your defense is that all the questions are historical and you suggest the addition of questions dealing with culture. If questions about religion ("Name the first book of the Bible.") count as "history" -- as you say they do -- then it's hard to conceive of a question about art or music (i.e. "Who painted the Mona Lisa?") that would not be historical.

If the problem was simply that the questionnaire needed more of a "cultural" angle -- whatever that means -- then it would make sense to suggest a few additional questions that could be added to the quiz. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it does not sound as if anybody suggested doing that. Also, your third paragraph certainly gives the impression that your own problems with the quiz caused you to conclude that it clearly did not measure cultural knowledge adequately, since you had trouble with it and consider yourself reasonably well-cultured. I know you were trying to dispel that impression, but you seem to be saying something else entirely.

One more thing, which is pure speculation on my part: It's certainly possible that Mr. Gelernter took your requirement to see the faculty advisor as a "shaky go-ahead," and that either one of you misinterpreted what the advisor subsequently said. This happens commonly in any organization, and if the advisor was himself unsure as to how to proceed, it's easy to see how this could happen. I did plenty of journalism myself in high school and college, and I can see how a faculty advisor might not approve of certain questions but still give a private (and possibly shaky!) go-ahead to a student journalist.

You are a talented writer and you sound like a well-meaning guy who is loyal to his school, but loyalty can be tricky for a journalist if it causes him to reject stories simply because they make some favored institution "look bad." As noted above, you have largely admitted that this is your motivation. It sounds to me as if you and your fellow editors rejected this story because you are worried about what it might reveal. That's a problem. That's the point.

At 4:54 AM, Blogger rzb said...

Matt -
Thank you for your comments. In terms of the the third to last paragraph, I think you misunderstood my statement. Publishing material that would put my school in a bad light is not my problem. It is "crazy," however, that the Mr. Gelernter thinks his test is adequate to assess the education at Amity High School. And there is no way that our paper can endorse, for our Centerspread, a survey of six questions that tests nothing more than history to determine if Amity is bad or good. That is what's crazy.

Mr. Gelernter also knows what happened. He's not stupid. Neither I nor our advisor gave him a shaky go-ahead. But at this point, it's besides the point.

We also told him to change the questions; multiple times, in fact. He did not listen.

But Matt, what I don't seem to understand, is how you believe that this test adequately measures culture and/or education at a school, and how you expect a newspaper to endorse it as a test if students are adequately prepared for life? It just doesn't make sense...not because I can't answer some of the questions, but because it's simply unrealistic. I just don't understand. The principal, teachers, parents, and students will think it's a joke. Just think.
(And then in smaller print:) Six history questions determine education level.
I hate to be blunt here, but give me a break.

Thank you.

At 5:32 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

What you don't seem to be getting here is that the article for my section is not an editorial. The headline will not be "Amity Students Fail Education Test," first of all because that is not what this is. As you know, but have not mentioned, the quiz needs to be short enough to be given to students at the start of their English classes without taking up too much time. I don't claim to be determining absolutely how educated we are -- a test that could do that wouldn't fit in the school day. Since the section is not an editorial, it will report the results in an unbiased way. It will say: Here's how well our parents did on the test, here's how well we did. The article will let the reader draw his own conclusion.
You seem to have an issue with my calling it a culture quiz. If this is such a problem, I will change the name, it doesn't really matter.
Anyone looking at this set of questions from a neutral standpoint would probably be curious, like I was and still am, to know how well Amity students (or any students) would do on them. If you're worried about the "Amity Kids are Dumb" headline it seems that you're just scared of the results. All your arguments surround that point, and that's why I don't think that you will let me do it for your newspaper.
Oh, one more thing. In your first post, the closing lines contained a not-to-subtle threat to my position as a columnist at the paper. Does your idea of freedom of the press manifest itself in getting rid of people who don't agree with you?

At 6:51 AM, Blogger R said...

Dan -
This needs to stop. This is a non-issue. We decided that your article would not appear in the Centerspread, and you have to respect that decision. I'm sorry, but you're not always right. You cannot go on your national publication badmouthing people. You have to learn limits and set boundaries. Your column in the paper goes with a Democratic column that is about a specific topic, not a topic of your choice. So if we don't like what you write based on the fact that we didn't choose it and you think you have all the power in the world, then we have to right to discontinue it. Thank you. This needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Mr. Mercurial said...

You should add a question or two:
Who is John Hinkley? and/or
Who "tried to impress Jodie Foster" and how did he try to do so?

Evertime I ask these to college-age folk, they have no idea who or what I'm talking about.

I look forward to reading your update on this newspaper piece & whether it runs or not.
Mr. Mercurial

At 2:47 PM, Blogger F said...

It is not your place to lie (or stretch the truth) to gain sympathy from your "fans." Sure, you can say that your adoring public will not listen to the voices of reason (Zach and Ryan), but listen closely to those people who you actually know and you'll realize how your credibility (not to mention sanity) is melting away. It appears that everyone is quite aware that the questions were unfair - you must now recognize that however much you would like to believe you are correct, in this quiz fiasco, you are not. It takes a strong personality to admit one is wrong. You are, quite obviously, not as strong as you make yourself out to be. Perhaps your idle threats can best be explained by Thomas Haliburton (a famous Canadian whom you, no doubt, are unfamiliar with, given your blind loyalty to everything American) - "When a man is wrong and won't admit it, he always gets angry."

At 2:48 PM, Blogger F said...

It is not your place to lie (or stretch the truth) to gain sympathy from your "fans." Sure, you can say that your adoring public will not listen to the voices of reason (Zach and Ryan), but listen closely to those people who you actually know and you'll realize how your credibility (not to mention sanity) is melting away. It appears that everyone is quite aware that the questions were unfair - you must now recognize that however much you would like to believe you are correct, in this quiz fiasco, you are not. It takes a strong personality to admit one is wrong. You are, quite obviously, not as strong as you make yourself out to be. Perhaps your idle threats can best be explained by Thomas Haliburton (a famous Canadian, whom you, no doubt, are unfamiliar with, given your own lack of culture) - "When a man is wrong and won't admit it, he always gets angry."

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

And you, Forrest, are angry.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

Just as you may feel that these questions are important, I'm sure there are many others who don't feel the same way. It's important to realize that this is your opinion Dan, and I know you have a difficult time understanding that your opinion may not necessarily represent the majority of people out there, but it's the truth.

It is your opinion that these questions are important. I could just as easily pose six questions of my own and call them important, and then talk lowly of the education system for not having properly educated those who couldn't answer them. But I haven't.

I suppose my point is, and I'm lucky to have one at 11:48pm, is that the editors obviously didn't agree that these questions were important. I personally side with them. All because you think they're the be all and the end all questions doesn't mean that you're right.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

First of all Kyle, when somebody says "Well that's just your opinion." What he really means is that he doesn't have any arguments against your point of view.
When I was selecting questions for this quiz, I used three criteria:
First, that the questions concern facts that are not peripheral to history. Secondly, my gold standard: that the facts are considered basic to American or world history by standard classic universally accepted texts such as Morrison & Commager or Palmer & Coulton. Finally, the questions must concern facts that I could be assured were widely or universally known by people one or two generations ago.
The point of the quiz, in other words, is to see if basic points of American or world history are still being taught. None of these questions, as suggested by Forrest above, are "unfair" -- unless you consider that it is "unfair" for students to know these facts. If they do not, it is not largely the fault of the student, but that of the modern school system.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

Dan, Dan, Dan... this isn't Dan's world but rather it's a world inhabited by a multitude of people, many of which share contradicting views on just about everything.

I understand your view. You believe that these questions should be common knowledge because you feel that they hold some sort of importance. I understand that, no problem. The problem occurs when you attempt to force your ideology upon everyone you meet, even those who don't wish to have anything to do with it. You simply dismiss those folks as "wrong" or "dumb" or, in my case, "he doesn't have any arguments against your point of view". That's just wrong on so many levels.

We are all making arguments against your point of view. You believe that these questions are key components to a proper education. We do not. At least that's my argument: I do not believe that these qustions are nearly as imperative as you claim they are. I can think of six questions that I believe are important to know, but I would never criticize people for not knowing the answers. All because their knowledge lies in a different area does not make them uneducated in the least.

I'd like to touch upon this tidbit, "None of these questions, as suggested by Forrest above, are "unfair" -- unless you consider that it is "unfair" for students to know these facts. If they do not, it is not largely the fault of the student, but that of the modern school system." You claim that these questions are completely fair, by your standards, as though your standards are the final line. I know I've said this many times, and many ways, but you need to realize that not everyone agrees with that, and it's important to respect others' opinions. As much as I do not agree with 90% of what the President is doing, I do not call him or his people "dumb" because of their views. I simply understand that they see things a different way.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Kyle, I meant to reply to your post, but I have determined, after careful inspection, that you did not make any points good enough to be worth replying to.
You should leave comment-making to someone like Forrest, whose temper tantrums make him more amusing.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

My point is really simple Dan. You need to accept that not everyone shares your opinions on various issues, and that it is OK for that to be the case. You need to respect others' opinions and understand that all because you believe something is important doesn't necessarily mean it is important to everyone.

See, simple isn't it? Also... Forrest's not having a temper tantrum... he's merely making a point similar to mine.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger R said...

Dan -
Please don't be so obtuse (using your own word selection) about things. Kyle has an extremely good point, but go ahead and be pompous. As you can see, we're all getting tired of your act.

- Ryan

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Dan Cuzz said...

After reading through your post and the string of comments following, I must say I was rather amused by your degree of extreme outrage at what comes down to some superior editors rejecting your idea for an article. Frustrating, yes, but entirely within their authority and harldy worth the energy you are expending by defending what is simply another article idea that is not getting published. Zach, Kyle, Forrest, and especially Ryan make an excellent case justifying the editors' decision to reject the idea. You need not to take these comments as personal attacks, but as well thought out explanation and constructive criticism, and I think it would serve you well to recognize a difference of opinion every once in a while. And with regard to the questions themselves, is it possible that these questions were common knowledge a generation or two ago because most of them were current events at the time? And is it possible that students' not knowing the answers might have something to do with their not having happened to be taught the answers yet, or the fact that the answers have not come up in a particular course's set curriculum. These questions are important pieces of information, and I admit to having been unable to answer most of them, but does knowing that Alan Sheppard was the first American in space (one that your loyal fan was wrong about as well) really determine a person's potential for success in society as an educated citizen? What one considers vital information, others may consider trivial (and please dont try to interpret that as my calling the information in question trivial; I am merely trying to illustrate the difference of opinion point). I know this debate seems to be dying down, and I apologize to anyone who had been hoping to see it end if I incite more angry comments, but I had only just had the opportunity to read it and felt the desire to share my thoughts. Feel free to try to tear me apart in a new comment; I always enjoy reading your defensive little tidbits of outrage.
-Your "trusted writer,"
Dan Cuzz

At 6:07 AM, Blogger DuFeR said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:22 AM, Blogger DuFeR said...

I got lost trying to follow this argument right about where Mancher starting citing results from this years CAPT test; what the fuck are you people bickering about? It's your high school newspaper, you've all been accepted into your choice schools (excluding Forrest but I doubt anybody cares about him because he's a malleable schmuck who lacks any convictions), so find something better to argue about.

Since when does the Trident endorse RD's views in the first place? If you're really uptight about looking bad, make sure he writes that these are his own opinions and on culture, and then put your little disclaimer at the end. Hell, if you're really uptight about it, make the disclaimer big, bold, and put it right under the title. He doesn't need the centerspread, but give him some decent space; I'd hope we could agree that there is plenty of crap that could be removed in lieu of something more interesting.

And Dan, if you wanted to get centerspread space, or even more recognition from the paper itself, you probably ought to work with other members of the paper to create a different question list. While I think your questions are fine, your definition of cultured is probably different from someone else's. There are plenty of intelligent people on the staff, regardless of their political views (again excluding Forrest because he's a drone), so get input from them. Considering your "lowly" position in the Trident pecking order, you should probably be more willing to compromise, so long as your survey does get through. I think that you would still be able to make your same assertions, even if your questions are altered by the staff. So stop fucking around, and get your article through in a more politically savvy way, because I'm sure it will be an interesting read.
Until later,

At 9:16 AM, Blogger DuFeR said...

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At 9:17 AM, Blogger DuFeR said...

After eons of deciphering you peoples’ arguments (1.5 study hall periods), I am a bit hazy on what arguments people are trying to put forth. To quote Doober, “does knowing that Alan Sheppard was the first American in space (one that your loyal fan was wrong about as well) really determine a person's potential for success in society as an educated citizen?” Did I miss where this survey transformed from a simple culture quiz to an analysis of someone’s worth as a human being? Kyle says that the importance of Repo. Dan’s questions is purely opinion based, and that Dan is a prick to force his opinions on others. Kyle, are you really going to fucking argue that Abe Lincoln wasn’t important, and that an average citizen shouldn’t recognize some of his more famous words? WWII was the greatest conflict the world has seen, and the RAF played an immense role in saving the world. If Britain fell, the War was lost. I fucking dare you to argue that the RAF and their leader aren’t of great importance to the average US citizen; you’ll lose. While historic events such as these should have been taught in class, I still understand it to be the responsibility of an individual to culture himself. For example, I know the first book of the bible because of my own curiosity. Yes, I’m Catholic, but I had to learn many Christian beliefs on my own. Again try to argue that the first book of the Bible isn’t important. Even if you don’t agree with another side, you should still know that the other side exists, and know its beliefs and arguments, especially if that side constitutes a major viewpoint. Last time I checked, the Judeo-Christian beliefs on creation and morality did.

A final blow to the shitty syntax that you hoped would sound smart and form an argument. To quote you, “As much as I do not agree with 90% of what the President is doing, I do not call him or his people "dumb" because of their views. I simply understand that they see things a different way.” Following Bush’s smashing of Kerry, I distinctly remember you threatening to leave the country, and you asking others to come with you, because Bush was going to ruin our country. It’s a shame you didn’t, because apparently the majority of America wouldn’t miss people like you. Maybe nobody cares what’s important in Canadian history either. You’d fucking fit in just fine.

Until Later,

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

I will soon be conducting the poll, and writing the results as an opinion article (the chief editors have decided that my idea wasn't newsworthy). I will explain in my article, which will appear on this blog, why each of the questions I ask is of vital importance.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

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At 1:25 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

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At 1:45 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

Ok, maybe I'll get it right this time. I replied earlier without reading all of TJ's post, and apparently it was all directed toward me. Oops. Now on the to reply.

First off TJ, all the profanity that litters your comment just about destroys any respectability that it may have had. Perhaps next time you'll utilize the English language to its potential and stick in some more studious, scholarly words. But that's not the real point at hand, just a minor observation.

You claim you know about the Bible because of your own curiosity. That's great; it's good to know the other side's views, indeed. But how much do you know about the Qur'an? How about Karma? How about the 8 fold path? Hmm... if you do great, but don't go Google it up. There are lots of different religions to go out and learn about, Buddhism and Islam being just two of many. Do you expect the world to know about all of them as well?

Next up, you took a perfectly good piece of humor and butchered it. Yes I threatened to leave the country if Bush won... but guess what? I'm still here. It was a joke, learn to live a little.

But this really isn't the place for personal attacks, as the last lines of your post tried to do. I'm not offended, if you were trying, you didn't succeed. I'm sure you'd like to see people like me leave. Guess what? We don't want to see people like you leave. Unlike you (meaning you, not your people) we're tolerant of others and we try to refrain from primitive name calling to make a point. Perhaps that's just dumb. I just think of it as mature.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Kyle. Oh boy.
The reason that Dufer knows about the Bible and not the Koran is that he is a Christian. The reason that all Americans should know first about the Bible (that is, the reason why the Bible is more important to America than the holy books of other religions) is that the United States was built upon Judeo-Christianity. Morality, as we know it, and the principles of freedom that are the foundation of our country, come from the Bible. You may not believe this, but that does not alter the fact that it is true. I suggest you read an article with extensive documentation on the subject, such as "Americanism--and Its Enemies" which appeared in the magazine Commentary in their January '05 issue, and was written by (incidentally) my father.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

But TJ says explicitly that we should know the other side...

At 6:48 PM, Blogger DoctorsAreAwesome said...

Wok with blistex my abraham

At 7:23 PM, Blogger R said...

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At 7:32 PM, Blogger R said...

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At 8:33 PM, Blogger Chava said...

I like this. Like a soap opera. :) And I say that in only the most admiring terms. What a great senior class. All this heated banter is strangely addictive and highly entertaining. I keep coming back for more.

I'm excited to read the upcoming culture quiz article and the comments that will draw (since the comments on this one seems to be slowing). It'll be like Dan's first soap's second season. Can we call it "As the Word Turns" or "Craze of our Lives"?

Hehe. I'm terrible, I know. Don't kill me, Dan. :)


At 11:26 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Dan Cuzz:

You write:

These questions are important pieces of information [...] but does knowing that Alan Sheppard was the first American in space (one that your loyal fan was wrong about as well) really determine a person's potential for success in society as an educated citizen?First of all, I have never met or spoken to the proprietor of this blog. I DO NOT KNOW Dan Gelernter (although I've read some stuff by his father). I'm taking his side here because I think most of the "deficiencies" of his original quiz (such as they were) could have been easily taken care of simply by adding a few questions rather than chucking his project entirely. These six questions are, in actuality, a good barometer of cultural knowledge (nobody, and certainly not him, is claiming they are equivalent to a standardized test).

Second, the question I incorrectly answered was the easiest to miss, revolving around something of a technicality (first man in space versus first man to make an orbital flight). I got five out of six, and by any reasonable definition that's a passing score.

At 12:27 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Mr. Benjamin:

Thanks for your reply; sorry for the lateness of mine. Look, I understand the point you're attempting to make here, but as far as I can tell Mr. Gelernter isn't claiming that this little quiz comprehensively measures the cultural knowledge of his school. This poll, were it to be carried out, would be at best a "thumbnail" sketch -- a sample. He even offers not to comment on the results, only to compare student knowledge with the knowledge parents possess (of course, if he prints it in his column he can express his opinion).

When it comes to questions like these, nobody's version is going to be acceptable to everyone, since tests of cultural literacy rest on contentious assumptions about what knowledge is important. That doesn't mean there is no point to conducting them.

If your newspaper puts this on the editorial page, you could have quite a debate over the meaning of the exams, which would be helpful. To help nudge the debate along, I'll even note a possible opposing argument: simply put, Americans (and not just students) have a history of doing badly at exams like these.

If you look through old newspapers, you can find headlines from half a century ago or more lamenting the deplorable state of historical or cultural or scientific knowledge in the schools, supported by accompanying polls showing that Americans of that era performed deplorably when asked to, say, explain who Thomas Jefferson was and why he was important. One poll commissioned during World War II concluded that very large numbers of Americans did not understand the purposes and goals of the conflict. During the Korean War, the intelligence chief of a Chinese army organization in North Korea discovered that captured American soldiers were woefully ignorant of their nation's tradition of freedom; he was happy to learn this because he figured it made the Americans easy to brainwash. And so on.

Now, have at it!

At 12:32 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Mr. Gelernter:

How about we post a link?

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

Speaking of the country being built on Judeo-Christian beliefs, here are some quotes from our founding fathers. I will let you make what you will of them.

1. Look at article 11 of the Treaty with Tripoli, signed by John Adams himself. "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

2. Thomas Jefferson himself said this of Christianity: "Christianity...(has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man".

3. James Madison didn't think religion and government should mix, "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

4. Thomas Jefferson was a deist, not a Chrsitian. Oops.

5. Jefferson explains how common law is NOT based on Christianity. "For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law. . . This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it." In a letter from Jefferson to Thomas Cooper.

Anyways, I don't have all day, but just do a Google search and you'll find a plethora of information. I'm not making the claim that America is or isn't a Judeo-Christian based country, but perhaps you should take a look at the other side and think about the logic. Then again, you may not want to.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Much better Kyle. I will adress your comment point by point in a new post within a few days.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger DoctorsAreAwesome said...


At 7:11 AM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

Okay Kyle, I finally had some spare time, so I decided to assemble my reply. Since you deal with Jefferson in three out of your five points, I’ll take him last and talk about the other two first.

The Barbary Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed at Tripoli, Article 11: As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It is quite true, of course, that the US is not founded on the Christian religion, as that would imply and established religion. The Unites States is founded, as I said, on the beliefs, or principles of Judeo-Christianity. The purpose of the above article of the Barbary Peace Treaty was to make it clear the there were no grounds for hostilities between the Musselmens and us based on religion. You mention that John Adams signed this treaty. Now, if you want a really good view on religiousness in America, try this one:

“Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

Next, you say that Madison did not think that religion and government should mix. What Madison is saying is, once again, that there should not be an established religion (he was very wary of this). Here is an interesting quote from one of his essays, entitled “Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments”, where he addresses the States themselves on religion:

“Ye States of America, which retain in your constitutions or codes, any aberration from the sacred principle of religious liberty, by giving to Caesar what belongs to God, or joining together what God has put asunder, hasten to revise and purify your systems, and make the example of your country as pure and compleat [sic] in what relates to the freedom of the mind and its allegiance to its maker, as in what belongs to the legitimate objects of political and civil institutions.”

Now, to Thomas Jefferson. What he specifically rejected was the concept of the trinity and notion that Christ was a deity. His religious views changed throughout his life, however, and he did not make this rejection until 1813, well after the founding of the country. Jefferson’s 1776 “Notes on Religion” make, as Providence Foundation scholar Mark Beliles says, “very orthodox statements about the inspiration of Scripture and Jesus as the Christ.” As Dr. James Kennedy writes: “Our nation's third president was, in fact, a student of Scripture who attended church regularly, and was an active member of the Anglican Church, where he served on his local vestry. He was married in church, sent his children and a nephew to a Christian school, and gave his money to support many different congregations and Christian causes.”

Throughout Jefferson’s two terms he attended public prayer services in the Capitol Building, and authorized the use of the War Office and the Treasury Building for church services. Despite his changing views, he was at no point unreligious.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger R said...

I believe you are forgetting something very important. You say that we are founded upon Judeo-Christian values. This simply isn't true. We are very much founded upon Greek and Roman values, which, as I understand, (please, please tell me if I'm wrong)contained no monotheistical culture, at least for a majority of their respective empires. Their values are extremely simliar to ours, with slight modifications that do not come from the Bible. So don't try to convince your 'adoring public' of that.

And though I've said this 100 times before, how can you try to force your religion on somebody when you live in this country? All you stand for is freedom around the world, but you essentially have no respect for people who are not Jewish or Christian, heterosexual, males, or worse yet, do not believe in God. You make noooo sense, and the sad thing is, you never will. I can go on and on and on about this, and I pretty much just accept the fact that you're a hypocrite and a liar and a ______ who doesn't know how to apologize, but I think your readers should know.

Peace out,

At 5:06 PM, Blogger DoctorsAreAwesome said...

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At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*particularly*.... stupid doctor

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"and I repeat, all, found the exam to be badly written. I am not out to make myself look good."


Don't you mean poorly written? I can't believe you are commenting on someone else's writing when you write like that.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger R said...

Mr./Mrs. Anonymous -
Badly is a word; actually, it is a very common word. Perhaps you should look in your dictionary from time to time before criticizing someone else's writing...just a thought. The survey was written badly, horribly, etc., as everyone seems to agree. Do you understand the context now?

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nobody said it wasn't a word you twit. But as an Engish professor I can tell you that the word poorly should have been used and not badly.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger R said...

Haha. As the 'English professor' who doesn't identify him/herself, you would know to put a comma after word. Hence, 'Nobody said it wasn't a word, you twit.' Just a funny aside...
The word poorly should not have been used. Show me the rule that says that, buddy, and then we can talk. You're a funny one.

- Ryan

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having read this, you sound like a little bitch Dan, my condolences.

At 7:55 PM, Blogger SMSgt Mac said...

Back onto the original topic, if the ladies are finally over the tempest in a teapot, Matt was correct as to who were the Khmer Rouge (aka "The Party of Democratic Kampuchea). They were Cambodian, in the sense that they had any national identity at all. See

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