The NY Times posited this question yesterday, stirring quite a buzz from readers. The article begins with the anecdote of Kellie Pickler, an "American Idol" contestant who wonders on a nationally televised quiz show whether Budapest is in France, whether Europe is a country and then seems incredulous when she's informed there is such a place as Hungary. "I've heard of Turkey," she spouts.
Ms. Pickler is hardly a spokeswoman for the U.S. education system, and yet there she was proudly displaying her ignorance for all the world to see.
To be sure, classifying Americans as thick and insular is the height of ignorance, as is judging America based on what you see on TV. If TV content were an accurate reflection of national character, Italy would be squarely at the bottom of the intellectual scale. But chances are the typical Italian would know where Budapest was. It's not in Turkey.