In a YouTube video posted at the end of October, PoliTech’s Courtney Plunk went on the campus of Texas Tech University to see just how much the students there knew about American history. What she discovered was not only surprising, but downright shameful.
In the video titled “Politically Challenged” the following questions were asked:
- Who won the Civil War (that’s the War of Northern Aggression for all my Southern brothers out there)?
- Who is our Vice President?
- Who did we gain our independence from?
Of the answers given to the above questions (most of which were “I don’t know”), only the first and second question got one correct answer each. These are college young people who are going into various professions from psychology to nursing. Yet, they don’t know some basic, simple questions about their own history.
One would think Texas Tech would be a little upset and one would be right. Sara Carden, senior public relations student at Texas Tech, wrote a letter to the editor of PoliTech chastising them for not properly representing the student population of Texas Tech nor the people in the video. She claimed, “It has been cut and edited to make Tech students as disengaged from current events as possible. Although PoliTech was trying to make a point about college students’ lack of current interest in politics, they did so in an unethical and immoral way.”
“As a self-proclaimed unbiased political organization, PoliTech does a great job of not showing all of the facts and only featuring their own side of the political awareness of Tech,” she wrote. “PoliTech should release the rest of the footage from their student interviews. This will not completely repair the damage it has done to Tech’s academic reputation, but it would restore the community’s confidence in Texas Tech students and bring accountability and transparency to an organization with little support on Tech campus.”
However, on the other side of the campus, John White, a columnist for the University’s newspaper compared the video to Fox news’ “‘Watter’s World,’ in which correspondent Jesse Watters interviews random students on college campuses to ‘expose’ how little they know about current events. Most of the responses that are kept by the editors, of course, show the incorrect responses, because those are the ones that draw a reaction from the audience, not because of any malicious intent.”
White said that while the video showed the students answering incorrectly or pausing on the questions asked, there were no incorrect answers or pausing when asked about pop culture.
“…It is ridiculous to blame the video’s creators for making the student body appear uneducated, assuming the video was not manipulated to change people’s answers,” he wrote. “If blame is to be assigned, it clearly should be to the ones who gave the incorrect answers. All the video’s producers did was expose the truth, for which they should be commended.”
He added, “Likely, the reaction to the video is more widespread than even the producers could have expected or even hoped. But the reality is that their purpose was to make students realize how unaware their counterparts are of history and politics, and the video has definitely done that.”
“That being said, at this point, there is not much the university can do in terms of making people learn this information prior to graduation. 12 hours of history and political science are already required of every Tech student,” he continued. “These courses should more than cover these basic facts. Almost all high schools require basic history courses as well. The reality is that there’s no acceptable excuse for graduating college without knowing the basics of U.S. history or even an inkling of current events.”
White then concluded, “It is incumbent upon our generation to reverse this disturbing trend. In order to fulfill our responsibility as citizens, when making an informed decision at the polls or serving on a jury, it is crucial to understand our nation’s history. It is our duty as Americans to take this responsibility seriously and ensure we are aware of the basic principles of liberty and the means by which they are safeguarded.”
Plunk stood behind her video in a follow up to her critics. She stated, “Texas Tech University, and the majority of its students know, that this video is not a criticism of the school’s academics, but instead a bold message to college students everywhere to be more politically involved. “
“We are confident that if we were to perform this same experiment in any other university in the nation, we would receive similar answers,” she added.
“PoliTech and its members stand behind our video 100%, and we will continue to bring political awareness to Texas Tech and the community of Lubbock,” Plunk declared.
I stand with them. There is no doubt that college students, as well as many working adults, know more about pop culture than they do their own founding documents or the current political landscape. If this video embarrasses students into learning more about what’s more important, then I say it has done it’s job. What say you?