We’ve suspected it for some time, but according to these latest findings, we are confident that Canadian politics — or even a quick “Canada is a democratic country” lesson — isn’t taught in elementary schools south of the border.
In the Nation’s Report Card, a study by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) aimed at assessing “what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas,” more than 29,000 Grade 8 students were asked a series of questions on subjects such as American history, civics and geography.
One multiple-choice question in the study asked what the current governments of Canada, Australia and France had in common.
Twenty-three percent of students chose the option, “They have leaders with absolute power.” Ten per cent believed the governments were controlled by the military, and 12 per cent believed “they discourage participation by citizens in public affairs.”
(To be fair, the majority answered correctly. Fifty-four per cent answered that the governments have “constitutions that limit their power.”)
Only 23 per cent of students were ranked at or above “proficient” in the civics category.
Kenneth Holland, a professor at Ball State University and the president of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, told the National Post that he believes these findings are indicative of a larger failure to educate young Americans about their neighbour to the north.
“Canada is a very important ally of the United States,” he said. “You can see that all over the world right now. Ukraine, Iraq, Syria: Canada is right there fighting alongside the United States.”
Unfortunately, our importance as an ally isn’t being taught well enough. And ignorance is to blame, Holland believes. Funding for a program titled “Understanding Canada,” which aimed to equip teachers around the world to better educate young minds about Canada, was cut altogether in 2012.
Holland isn’t worried that American teens think Canada is run by a dictatorship. He’s more concerned that American teens have no real idea about The Great White North at all.
“I think there’s a broader problem and that is that Americans know very little about Canada,” he said, adding that what little knowledge American teens have of Canada is limited to pop culture, Mounties and a vague understanding of Quebec separatism.
And it doesn’t get better with time, either. Apparently Harvard students can’t identify the capital of Canada.
and if you can’t teach ‘em, laugh at ‘em.
Rick Mercer finds the comedy in Americans’ ignorance about our nation.