Sobering Facts


Adult Americans

  • Between 1989 and 2007 Americans knowledge of current events dropped by 8.3%
  • 93% know Arnold Schwarzenegger while 36% know Vladimir Putin
  • 32% know Sunni and Shia as two branches of Islam
  • 41% know the name Muslims use to refer to God and the name of Islam’s sacred text
  • 33% believe that Iraq carried out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington
  • 25% of public biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously
  • 14% estimate the world’s population at 30 billion or more
  • 86% do not know the world population
  • 48% predict the world’s population doubling in less than 20 years (UN estimates 50)
  • 25% cannot name any First Amendment rights
  • 62% cannot name the three branches of the United States government

Americans age 18-24

  • 33% cannot locate Louisiana on a U.S. map
  • 48% cannot locate the state of Mississippi on a U.S. map
  • 47% cannot locate India on a map of Asia.
  • 75% cannot locate Israel on a map of the Middle East
  • 70% cannot locate North Korea on a map of Asia
  • 60% cannot locate Iraq on a map
  • 33% cannot locate the direction “northwest”
  • <30% think it is absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located
  • 86% believe speaking another language fluently is not a necessary skill.
  • 74% believe English is the primary language spoken by the most people in the world
  • 30% believe the most heavily fortified border in the world is the U.S.-Mexican border

Will this situation improve?

  • ~67% of American high school seniors read below the proficient level
  • >50% of American adults have not read any work of fiction or poetry in the preceding year
  • American kids aged 2-5 spend ~25 hours watching live television and over 32 hours a week on average in front of the TV screen
  • American kids aged 6-11 spend ~22 hours watching live television and over 28 hours a week on average in front of the TV screen
  • American adults spend an average of 8 hours per day in front of a television, 56 hours per week


  • RAND Corporation
  • Pew Research Center
  • Nielsen Company
  • National Geographic Society
  • University of Texas
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Constitution Center
  • CBS News
  • United Nations

One thought on “Sobering Facts

  1. Mark Stephens

    So what’s the source of this problem? Modern parenting, public education, or something else? If we can identify that, we can solve it. Right?

    — Mark

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