Reality Check?

Prior to my journey to the University of Maryland last week, I mentioned to my classes that I would be seeing Richard Dawkins speak. On a whim, I asked how many of them had heard of Dawkins. I have about sixty students in three courses this term. The number who raised their hands? Six.

Submitted for what it’s worth.

Comments

  1. #1 Thanny
    April 19, 2011

    Ask them how many know how many members there were in The Beatles and what their names are/were. I bet you’ll be surprised how many don’t know that, too.

  2. #2 IanW
    April 19, 2011

    I’ll bet none of them remember that John Lennon said that the Beatles were bigger than Dawkins’ delusion, either!

  3. #3 SLC
    April 19, 2011

    Re Thanny @ #1

    Since the Beatles were in their prime 40 years ago, long before any of Prof. Rosenhouses’ students were born, this would not be surprising. Instead, ask them how many have heard of Justin Bieber, this years teen sensation.

  4. #4 Erp
    April 19, 2011

    @#3, I think that was Thanny’s point

    I wonder how many have heard of the Dalai Lama and know what religion he is a member of. Pope Benedict XVI (and what religion he is head of). Pat Robertson, Billy Graham

    It might be a sign of mere apathy towards the greater world.

  5. #5 Orac
    April 19, 2011

    Well, whenever I give talks on alternative medicine and ask the audience if anyone knows what homeopathy is, it’s rare to find anyone who really does know what it is (i.e., complete with ridiculous “like cures like” and the dilution beyond there being even a single molecule of remedy left). They all think it’s some sort of herbal or “natural” medicine. Ditto when I talk about chiropractic and the real belief system behind it.

    That’s what I’m there for. To try to educate them.

  6. #6 moliva
    April 19, 2011

    I wonder how many have heard of the Dalai Lama and know what religion he is a member of. Pope Benedict XVI (and what religion he is head of). Pat Robertson, Billy Graham

    It might be a sign of mere apathy towards the greater world.

  7. #7 TrekJunkie
    April 19, 2011

    While lecturing about climate change in my intro bio class, I showed a pic of Mt. Kilimanjaro and made the comment that the only place to see the snows of Kilimanjaro would be in the movie. Not a one, out of over 100 kids, knew the movie, they were clueless of who wrote the book!

  8. #8 eric
    April 19, 2011

    Meh. Every passing year it seems to me that the younger generation appears more ignorant. I look back and say that surely, my peers and I weren’t that dumb at that age.
    But, my grandfather probably said the same thing about my father’s generation. As did my father about my generation. And so while my gut tells me this generation is less well educated than mine, my mind tells me that the most significant change is probably not in them, but in me.

  9. #9 Lynn Cage
    April 19, 2011

    The world has a lot more subcultures than it used to. It’s easy to be supremely knowledgeable in some and utterly ignorant in others without this implying an overall stupidity or apathy for learning. There’s just a lot of Stuff around to be ignorant about these days.

  10. #10 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    April 19, 2011

    Wow, those students should get themselves to a university and get themselves edjumacated.

    I wonder how many have heard of the Dalai Lama and know what religion he is a member of.

    No fair, the Dalai Lama has had several lifetimes to build his fame.

  11. #11 Onkel Bob
    April 19, 2011

    What subject is you teach again? Ask a room full of biology majors if they heard of the Fields Medal, I’ll bet you get a similar response.

  12. #12 podunkmo
    April 19, 2011

    My kids are 13 and 10, know who the Beatles were, know how John and George died, and like the music. Now if I could get them to read something without pictures.

  13. #13 Joe Shelby
    April 19, 2011

    so, not that many Doctor Who fans, ‘eh?

    [reference: Dawkins made an appearance on episode 12 of season 4 of the new series...oh, and for old-school Who fans, he's married to former Romana Lala Ward and met her at a party at Douglas Adams's flat.]

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 19, 2011

    Onkel Bob —

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure how many math majors have heard of the Field’s Medal.

  15. #15 Sean Santos
    April 24, 2011

    Doesn’t surprise me. There are so many things that one can learn about the world. When you subtract the people who lack curiosity, and the ones who specialize in stuff unrelated to evolution or atheism, there’s not that much of a population left.

    Especially when it comes to learning people’s names, where a passing or recent familiarity with a subject doesn’t really make you aware of who the major players are. Personally, I know that I’m not very good at that, even when I know “who someone is” in a vague sense (like when I kept forgetting Spinoza’s name for six months after I started reading him).

    The problem with the “New Atheists” is probably not so much that religious people listen to them and are repulsed. The problem is more that they only hear about the “New Atheists” through critics. That’s probably why there are so many misconceptions and so much crap about tone. More people know more about why the New Atheists are supposed to be bad, than understand what sort of things they really say. Recent case in point: my mother felt very certain that “The Good Book” was a sarcastic parody of the Bible, because it was subtitled “A Humanist Bible” and because she’d heard something about Grayling and Dawkins being friends. She was so certain that that was what it was, that it took several pages of actually reading it for her to be dissuaded.

  16. #16 Piltdown Man
    May 4, 2011

    SIx?

    One would have been way too many. Perhaps the country’s youth isn’t is damned as I previously thought. Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope.

    Why would a “teacher” be mentioning the name of a blasphemer in “science” class? What has Richard Dawkins got to do with your science subject. Leave your personal politics out of the science classroom. That conversation is resrved for other classes and majors, like poltical science, etc.

    Or, if you include your personal anti-God politics in the classroom, then that only means that others can share personal pro-creation, pro-God stuff with students as well. Excample, if you can talk about the infamous blasphemer Dick Dawkins, then we can equally talk about Ken ham. Deal?

  17. #17 NJ
    May 17, 2011

    I’m a little late to the party, but considering the previous commenter is the bozo who runs a blog that is a cross between Mabus and JAD, I figure I’m not too late.

    (Seriously. The guy is a YEC who also has a water fluoridation fixation and quotes approvingly from Orac’s favorite punching bag, Natural News.)

    As further proof of Robbie’s derangement:

    Why would a “teacher” be mentioning the name of a blasphemer in “science” class? What has Richard Dawkins got to do with your science subject. Leave your personal politics out of the science classroom.

    It seems the mere mention of the name is enough to offend Robbie’s senses; apparently, like Beetlejuice or Voldemort, the name itself causes problems. Out in the real world, of course, Richard Dawkins is a respected popularizer of science and inquiring if students have even heard of him is a worthwhile exercise.

    Oh, and Rob? You want to talk about Ken Ham? He’s a blatantly dishonest con man who has suckered your mentally ill ass. Deal.

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