They may not know much about history or current events, but they know Brad Pitt's marital history like the backs of their hands.
In a YouTube video last month, Courtney Plunk with the student group PoliTech posed the following questions to her fellow Texas Tech University classmates:
- Who won the Civil War?
- Who is the vice president?
- Who did we gain our independence from?
The answers were depressingly bad, with several students saying the South had won the Civil War — "That was the Confederates, right?" — and many admitting total historical ignorance.
The subjects with which the students were familiar: MTV's "Jersey Shore," and Brad Pitt's wives.
After their ignorance was put on display, it sparked some controversy and soul-searching at the university: Senior political relations major Sara Carden argued that PoliTech had disingenuously spliced footage together to make students look dumber than they actually were and called on PoliTech to release unedited footage of the interviews.
On the other hand, John White, a columnist for the Texas Tech student newspaper, defended the video:
[I]t is ridiculous to blame the video’s creators for making the student body appear uneducated, assuming the video was not manipulated to change people’s answers. If blame is to be assigned, it clearly should be to the ones who gave the incorrect answers. All the video’s producers did was expose the truth, for which they should be commended.
It is incumbent upon our generation to reverse this disturbing trend [of apathy towards politics and history]. In order to fulfill our responsibility as citizens, when making an informed decision at the polls or serving on a jury, it is crucial to understand our nation’s history. It is our duty as Americans to take this responsibility seriously and ensure we are aware of the basic principles of liberty and the means by which they are safeguarded.
The “Politically Challenged” video exposes just how far today’s young people — our generation — still need to go.
In a follow-up video posted last week, PoliTech's Plunk stood by the video.
"Texas Tech University, and the majority of its students know, that this video is not a criticism of the school’s academics, but instead a bold message to college students everywhere to be more politically involved," she said. "We are confident that if we were to perform this same experiment in any other university in the nation, we would receive similar answers."
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter