Insert lame Stephen Harper joke here.
In the testing of 8th graders by the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress, about 33 percent of the 29,000 teens tested said Canada, along with Australia and France, are essentially dictatorships.
What do the current governments of Canada, France, and Australia have in common?
A. They are controlled by the military.
B. They have constitutions that limit their power.
C. They have leaders with absolute power.
D. They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs.
The breakdown of the answers went like this:
A. They are controlled by the military. (10%)
B. They have constitutions that limit their power. (54%)
C. They have leaders with absolute power. (23%)
D. They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs. (12%)
The insult is not directed at Canada, but U.S. 8th graders' ignorance about the world. While Australia and France are much further away, U.S. news tends to ignore foreign countries unless we are at war. So yes, "Americans" know more about Iraq than Canada, but not really either place.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, though most people who think they know Canada might not get the last part correct. As regular readers know, I am learning more about the role of the governor general in Canada, and I think I know a lot about Canada.
We should be more disappointed in the inability to make a reasonable guess on a multiple choice question.
Pretend you don't know anything about Canada (a bunch of U.S. 8th graders did so). Then look at the 4 answers: which answer is different than the others? The first 2 tie together well, so chances are neither of them are correct.
The 3rd answer is true in Canada these days with trying to discourage registered voters from voting to limiting citizen input on oil pipelines to Bill C-51. While you can convince a teacher in an essay, that the 3rd answer is true, standardized tests are set up not for lukewarm, complicated answers.
The 4th answer, "constitutions that limit their power," also applies to the United States, England, and the 3 countries above. The answer is also distinct from the rest of the list.
We also need to consider that some of the 8th graders didn't understand terms such as "constitution" and "absolute power."
If people in the U.S. know about another country, that country would be England/United Kingdom. Americans know that England also went down the rabbit hole in the Iraq War, but likely don't know that Jean Chretien and Canada didn't go to Iraq.
The funny part is that Britain and Canada have the same exact form of government, right down to Queen Elizabeth II. Yet 33% of those teens didn't know this.
Besides reading this blog, which they should, Americans could watch "The National" from CBC News or the Global newscast through Roku. They might not learn directly that Canada isn't a dictatorship but if they could read between the lines, they would be able to properly answer the multiple-choice question.
A Canadian TV channel, along the lines of BBC America, is the best solution since TV is more likely to seep into the brains of 13- and 14-year-olds.