Two Frightening StoriesNormally I think people get way too hung up on the whole "common facts college students don't know” business but I'll share two horrifying tales:
1) In a class on colonial history one of the exam questions is to label Philadelphia, New York, and Boston on a map. The map already has 3 dots on it corresponding to those cities, and has the lines of the future states drawn in. A number of students fail this exercise.
2) In a class on Western History the lecturer opens up a map of Italy. Nearly 400 undergraduates are asked "what are these countries over here east of Italy?" There is nothing but dead silence, and some mild looks of fear. I turn to the TA next to me with a look of horror on my face. Despite the US role in international conflicts in the region, nobody has any idea where Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania are. Nobody even says “the Balkans” or “former Yugoslavia.”