Has the web helped our public awareness?

From a post on Content Matters: Despite Web and Cable, Americans Remain Oblivious to Public Affairs…."or so say the findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center.The study, entitled "What Americans Know: 1989-2007" assesses public knowledge of leaders and news events, as compared to 1989.  We might have assumed that the advent of 24-hour news combined with the abundance of websites and blogs would have resulted in a more educated public, but that’s not the case. According to the Pew study, our knowledge of public affairs today is roughly the same as it was eighteen years ago."

From the Pew study: "More than nine-in-ten Americans (93%) could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger as the California governor or a former action-movie star — both responses were counted as correct in the scoring. An equally large proportion of the public identified Hillary Clinton as a U.S. senator, a former first lady, a Democratic leader, or a candidate for president. Clear majorities can also correctly identify Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (65%) and Sen. Barack Obama (61%). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is recognized by about half of the public (49%). Other prominent national figures and world leaders are not as well known. When asked to name the president of Russia, just 36% recalled Vladimir Putin."

I imagine that similar results would be obtained if a sample of the British public were asked to identify political figures in the UK and mainland Europe. Most of them would probably get Schwarzenegger, though.

4 thoughts on “Has the web helped our public awareness?

  1. When I taught, I was a model teacher, which meant I was sent to lots of workshops for training to eventually pass on to other teachers at my school. The subject of kids being “smarter” today always came up because of the need to figure out new ways to teach them. Technology, media, and the Internet were generally cited as reasons behind the new “smartness.”
    Personally, I never thought the kids were any “smarter” than we were because I always found it easy to run intellectual circles around them. (One favorite teaching method of mine was creating confusion by using the Socratic method, forcing students to form logical order out of chaos.) Rather, I believe today’s kids are “savvier.” They are more aware of the wide world than I was as a child, and I am sure the Internet has a lot to do with it.

  2. Yes, I sure agree that they are more aware these days. When I think about how hard it was to gather information, not just when a child but when working as a reporter, I could scream at how long it all took. I suppose now it must be imperfect, but it is so much easier, indeed effortless, to find information. I hope that schools teach “good ways to search” and “how to know whether information is trustworthy” these days.

  3. My school was in an inner city neighborhood and each classroom was outfitted with an ancient pair of Macs. I never used them for teaching because I continually ran into problems with the netnanny software. Someone, somewhere blocked a whole range of “naughty” words so nearly every web site was a blank page. The Powers That Be also blocked certain search phrases, including “sports.” Sports!
    The irony was that I constantly heard talk of getting teachers to integrate technology into the classroom. Netnanny rendered the Internet useless. In my last year, I had 33 students and 2 nearly unusable computers. The school’s computer lab only had 30 computers in it and, often, several of them were broken. And I always found it funny that technology talk usually came up when I’d be sitting in a room with ancient teachers, many having begun their careers before touch tone telephones were the standard.

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