Sunday, March 17, 2013

Britain vs. America, round 3

In 2010, I had a post about Americans' increased knowledge of a number of historical figures between 1952 and 1975.  Then about a month ago I discovered that the same questions had been asked in a British survey from 1955.  The British respondents in 1955 were about equal to the Americans in 1975, despite having less schooling.  Now I have found that the questions were also asked in British surveys from 1967 and 1975.  The results (I'll just show the average number of correct answers out of ten names rather than the percent answering each one correctly):

              US     UK
1952      4.5
1955                  5.5
1967                  6.1
1975      5.4       6.4

Both the United States and Britain improved over the period, but the British maintained a substantial lead.

However,  there was one case in which Americans did a lot better:  Gutenberg, who is not included in these averages because the 1955 British survey didn't ask about him.  The 1967 and 1975 surveys did, though, and only 8% and 5% knew who he was.  In the United States, 24% knew who he was in both 1952 and 1975.  I don't know why--I can't think of an reason that Gutenberg would receive a lot much more attention in American schools, but maybe he did.

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