lifestyle

Japanese college students struggle to answer basic astronomy questions

76 Comments
By Preston Phro

Mitsumi Fujishita, a professor at Tokai University in Kumamoto City, conducted a study to assess students’ basic knowledge of astronomy, asking nine questions about things like in which direction the sun set, what causes the waxing and waning of the moon, and which celestial bodies orbit the earth. The responses to Professor Fujishita’s study seem to have left him in a state of deep despair.

Out of a sample of 667 students (mostly freshman) from three junior colleges and two universities, only 75% correctly answered that the sun sets in the west. Another 22% answered that it sets in the east, while the final 3% answered that the sun sets in either the north or the south.

One another question asking in which direction the sun sets for those living in the southern hemisphere, only 44% answered correctly.

Just over half of respondents (56%) answered that the seemingly changing shape of the moon as we see it from earth is caused by the relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth. The remaining 44% incorrectly answered that it was the earth’s shadow on the moon.

When asked which celestial bodies orbit earth, 33% included Mars, and 18% included the Sun itself. Ptolemy would be happy to see that his model has survived to this day.

While all of this is admittedly alarming, it is even stranger to see these results compared with a study of elementary students in fourth through sixth grade from 2001 to 2004. Roughly 40% of the elementary school students thought that the sun went around the earth, and only 60-70% of the students knew that the sun sets in the west.

According to Professor Fujishita, this indicates that many students had not progressed beyond their elementary school understanding of the universe. Saying that he was “shocked by the low percentage of correct answers,” the professor explained that many young people were lacking in basic knowledge and had little concept of the world around them. He added that when asking students to estimate 30 centimeters of length or asking how many grams a small rock probably weighs, he usually gets wildly inaccurate answers.

Many Japanese Internet commenters blamed the manga/anime "Tensai Bakabon," which features a song about the sun rising in the west and setting in the east.

-- It’s all Tensai Bakabon‘s fault!

-- If not for that song, I wouldn’t be able to remember, since I know it’s the opposite of the song.

-- But a more basic problem is that most people can’t tell east from west. For a lot of us, the left is west and the right is east.

-- The thing about the sun going around the Earth is scary. How can anyone think that and graduate from high school?

-- I bet it’s because he asked a bunch of kids in a stupid rural university!

-- But the correct answer is “The sun doesn’t set. The earth rotates.” Right?

Sources: JCast News, Itai News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese company wants to send robots to the moon
-- Some Japanese school regulations don’t make any sense -- Searching for Senyu Ryuka, the Japanese woman people call “God”

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76 Comments
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Unless something needs to be learned for an exam, your average Japanese person won't know it. That's why there's a serious lack of creativity, general knowledge and common sense in Japan.

19 ( +27 / -8 )

Most of my high school students here in Iwate don't even know the name of their current science teacher. That's how disinterested they are.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

A lot of Japanese "students" can't point out their current position on a global map, or now where Europe or America is. How the hell are they expected to know about celestial bodies. Its way beyond the realm of their comprehension.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Like is Pluto a planet or a minor planet? What about Eris, Makemake, and Haumea?

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Had one the other day ask me where Pakistan was, c'mon that is pretty basic geography isn't it?

Many only know 1+1 = 2 , ABCD sort of stuff, and they fail in most other aspects of knowledge seriously its not uncommon either.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I can understand complaining when students don't know basic geography. It is important for modern business to have a fairly good idea where most countries are, and most importantly roughly what the time is there right now.

Astronomy however? I don't think any Japanese kids went to scouts, nor do they go camping in the real sense of the word. They've never once had to orient themselves while lost in a forest, and the stars and sun are poor orientation tools when you're lost in a mall.

It simply isn't useful for them, so they don't remember it.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

American students probably aren't much different. Money can make you prosperous but it can't 'buy' you brains.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

If something is taught once, then never referred to again in future studies, even in passing, then of course they'll forget. There is a large problem with how teachers are forced to rush through a packed curriculum - no chance to explain something again if the students don't get it. No time to review. How much of what students study is taught in a way that makes it relevant to their life?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@Frungy

It simply isn't useful for them, so they don't remember it.

You hit the nail on the head there. That could lead to a philosophical debate, though, of what constitutes 'useful information', and why. Personally, I find it amazing that they don't seem to have any curiosity about 'how things work' - just 'whether they work or not'.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Tokai University in Kumamoto is not an "average" university. Their standardized score for entrance exam is around 35, which means lower 7% of the student body in Japan.

http://大学偏差値.biz/kumamoto.php

6 ( +8 / -2 )

@Frungy

Astronomy however? I don't think any Japanese kids went to scouts

You don't have to be an astronomer over even a scout to know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Its a daily event, so you should have noticed it at least once by the time you're a young adult. This is like saying "oh, I didn't know that the sky is blue". Look up!! Its there for you to see, and it doesn't cost a thing. There is no excuse for this kind of ignorance. "The land of the rising sun!!"...hmmm, ever wonder why they call it that?

Mars is orbiting the earth? C'mon!!!!!! Grow some brains PLEASE, you're UNIVERSITY and college students!!!!

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Roughly 40% of the elementary school students thought that the sun went around the earth

The creationists must be breathing a sigh of relief!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

A better question would have been "why does the sun appear to rise and set?" Which it don't because it's actually only the motion of the Earth that makes the sun appear to rise and set. The sun is a star and stars don't move.

2 ( +11 / -8 )

@zichi

The sun is a star and stars don't move.

What??

A bit of a slip from the chap I rely on for sound scientific info regarding Fukushima ; )

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@lucabrasi, I'm correct. Stars don't move unless you mean the whole galaxy is moving in the universe? The sun does not rise or set? The Earth appears to be flat, but actually its not?

The average velocity of the solar system is 828,000 km/hr. At that rate it will take about 230 million years to make one complete orbit around the galaxy.

http://www.universetoday.com/60174/does-the-sun-move/#ixzz2n7tP4DRo

0 ( +8 / -7 )

Scientific ignorance is dangerous and damaging. Education systems which don't encourage scientific curiosity and fail to give a basic grounding in the sciences are doing children a terrible disservice. Yes, this is astronomy, but I'd wager a similar ignorance of science in general. I'm sure there are many well-trained, knowledgeable science teachers out there, but it is often said that many science teachers are teaching general science rather than their specialist area of knowledge and those with science degrees generally don't enter the teaching profession because of other job opportunities with higher salaries. I'm a physics major, and if I were a teacher, I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable teaching chemistry or biology. If you want to put it into economic terms, countries which want to produce innovations in engineering, pharmaceuticals, IT and the like need people well-versed in science. Thankfully, Japan isn't a country carrying the millstone of ridiculous religious fundamentalist ideas around its neck and shouldn't be producing people who are this ignorant.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@ lucabrasi, What?

Zichi is right Sun is a star.

-1 ( +6 / -6 )

@zichi

From the same website you linked to:

The simple fact is that due to gravity every object in space moves. The reason that things seem stationary is because of relative motion and frame of reference. Relative motion means that celestial object tend to move at the same speeds. We only notice them moving if their relative velocity is different from ours. Stars move due to being in their own unique orbits around the center of the galaxy. In real time speed they move very quickly but because every other star moves at around the same speed we never notice how quickly we move.

That's what I was getting at.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@Zichi

If you want to be so literal on how celestial bodies move in relation to the earth, stars as well as the sun do move, as lucabrasi stated.

Since we are humans, and we like to believe that we that we are the center of the universe, or for plainly the sake of sanity, let's just accept that the sun rises and sets so that we can go on with our sheltered and ignorant existence.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

When asked which celestial bodies orbit earth, 33% included Mars, and 18% included the Sun itself. Ptolemy would be happy to see that his model has survived to this day.

The sun does orbit the earth, just as the earth orbits the sun. All orbits are mutual by their very nature. Which leads me to wonder just how well trained this Professor Fujishita actually is....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Mirai Hayashi

Glad that you agree that there's no actual sunrise or sunset but yes nothing in the universe is motionless except maybe, anti matter blackholes?

I go back to my first comment and say a better question to the students would be "why does the sun appear to rise in the east and set in the west?"

I have not believed we are the center of the universe since I was a very small child.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@Zichi

Excellent posts, I myself was a little shocked at how fast the earth is traveling near 67,000 MPH is fast fast.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The land of the rising sun

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I'll be honest here: I have to think about which direction the sun sets, because it is not something I ever have to use in every day life. Not defending the wtf education we have, both in Japan and America, but just throwing that out there.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What's the big deal about this?

I bet college students in many 'industrialized' and 'advanced' nations couldn't answer your most basic astronomy questions. They can't even identify countries on a world map.

Surely there are better examples of those who want to negatively stereotype all Japanese students and people?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Galapagos syndrome?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wow. Doesn't surprise me. What worries me more is how willfully ignorant so many Japanese adults are of Japanese history. Yeah, you might be a bit of a dunce for not knowing the names of the planets, but not knowing about Japanese history pre-1950s is even worse.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

NeonFraction has a very good point here. In an era of information overload, kids will remember what they use, or what they deduced on their own. anything else is a google click away. "The Sun sets in the West" is a piece of information that most of the kids heard it once from the teacher and never used for anything, and therefore it does not worth storing. If instead the kids do a brainstorming session with the question "where does the Sun set?" and they come up with various scenarios and reasons, they will remember the conclusion. Or if they go camping and receive some basic orientation training.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's funny what people know or don't know. My university students were amazed that I didn't know how to conduct (as in classical music). "Everybody knows how to do it," they told me. Also that I didn't know the order of the planets perfectly; to them it was like not knowing the order of the days of the week.

But none of them could name the seven colours of the rainbow in the correct order, which I found just as strange.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The correct answer goes to lucabrasi (for once). Gravitational interactions are complex, its recognised as the n-body problem, that's why we can't predict exactly where the Earth will be in a billion years, we just approximate.

This story is more of an embarrassment for the teacher than the students. Multiple choice questions encourage students not to think. For example, ask a student does the moon orbit the earth. Yes is an OK answer. Another better answer might be that they both orbit their combined centre of gravity which happens to be inside the earth but not the centre. An even better answer starts talking about a 3-body problem. Hell you can go on to quantum mechanics if you want.

So, appears to me this teacher designed a test to show how dumb is students are, very clever.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Figuring out where the sun sets is not too hard. You don't need to look up, or know anything about astronomy to figure it out. All you need to do is use your brain and THINK. Where is the sun at 7 o'clock in the morning in relation to my house? Is it on the left right or in the front? If you know what direction your house faces (for most people it should be close to S, SW, or SE) then it shouldn't be hard to figure out.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Their SmartPhone maps do not extend that far…and their geospatial awareness is close to zero.

What can you expect with a generation that relies on GPS to go to the shops, or a whistle-blowing guide to accompany them on tours?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

davestrousers - true, all normal matter exerts mutual gravitational effect on other matter in relation to its mass, but orbits are different; they are a matter of geometry. In our solar system, planets occupy shells with the overwhelming gravity of the sun as the locus. The combined gravitational force of all the planets is insufficient to nudge the sun to any significant extent - unlike, say, the stars of a binary solar system. So, yes, the planets do orbit the sun.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think there is wealth of information out there that states Earth orbits the Sun. Cant mess with facts. The Sun also does move but only on its axis.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Laguna

The combined gravitational force of all the planets is insufficient to nudge the sun to any significant extent - unlike, say, the stars of a binary solar system.

Depends what you mean by significant extent. Some Jupiter-sized exoplanets have been discovered by the wobble effect they have on their star.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have been living in Japan for over 6 years. I have driven through the WORST fog I have ever seen in my life, through snow storms you couldnt see 2 inches infront of your car, and through typhoons. No one has their lights on when they drive. WHY? because "Unless something needs to be learned for an exam, your average Japanese person won't know it. That's why there's a serious lack of creativity, general knowledge and common sense in Japan" No one ever told them to. Its not on their driving test. No told them its a good idea, so the idea doesnt exist in their minds even though perfect common sense IF VISIBILITY IS IMPAIRED USE YOUR LIGHTS!

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I have not believed we are the center of the universe since I was a very small child.

My first wife was the centre of the universe. Fortunately one night I was out walking and with no warning got sucked into a black hole and emerged the other side into an entirely different and better life with no first wife. But enough of that. To really test the students brains ask them what existed before the big bang.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think I have a winner here. Today I asked my college students "who was the first man on the moon?"

No-one knew the correct answer, but most assumed he was Japanese.

And a couple of them replied, seriously, "Tom Hanks."

4 ( +6 / -3 )

Just google Monty Python's Galaxy Song and you'll get all the answers you need, sort of. I've played this to a lot of Japanese students in my time:

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see Are moving at a million miles a day In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour Of the galaxy we call the 'milky way'

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars It's a hundred thousand light years side to side It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide

We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point We go 'round every two hundred million years And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding In all of the directions it can whizz As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure How amazingly unlikely is your birth And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Once again, I categorize this as stuff as information not really relevant. I mean, does anyone know who the 20th Prime Minister of Canada is? These questions aren't really based in Common sense, it's just stuff you "KNOW" I mean, I think everyone can admit that they have looked up something that was common sense on the Internet at least once in their life.

It's a society that determines what is on a need-to-know basis, foreign countries may think that understanding how Paper is made is an integral part of society while other cultures think how to write cursive and backwards is important when that's just societal norms dictating what is and isn't common sense.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@Tessa

Yep, that's a good one.

There really are some astonishing gaps in the knowledge of perfectly intelligent university students here. My favourites are: "Name a country partly in Europe and partly in Asia." (answer: "Africa"), and "How long ago was the "wild west", before the invention of the car when cowboys rode around on horses?" (Answer: "About six thousand years ago.")

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I have to seriously question the point of publishing such results here with no context. Is it just to highlight the obliviousness of a a small sample size of young people from a low level regional university?

Is this supposed to be indicative of the general level of education?

Is it just supposed to be a post for people to sound off about "Boy, those Japanese people sure can't think for themselves!"

I don't understand why you would publish this.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Mirai HayashiDec. 11, 2013 - 09:57AM JST You don't have to be an astronomer over even a scout to know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Its a daily event, so you should have noticed it at least once by the time you're a young adult. This is like saying "oh, I didn't know that the sky is blue". Look up!! Its there for you to see, and it doesn't cost a thing. There is no excuse for this kind of ignorance. "The land of the rising sun!!"...hmmm, ever wonder why they call it that?

Seriously? This is your argument? Give me the chemical composition of the air you breathe off the top of your head. How can you POSSIBLY not know that?????!! I mean you breathe it ALL the time. How about the history of the atmosphere of the planet? Drawing another blank? How ignorant!

... just because something happens all the time doesn't mean that people are automatically curious or well informed about it. That sort of assumption just shows poor logic skills... which is ironic considering that you're calling other people ignorant.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Pandabelle - Number three, and number four.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry I was throwing one above their heads... Even basic astronomy...what the heck!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In what direction is Comet Lovejoy at 4 a.m.? Now there's a useful question.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Depends what you mean by significant extent. Some Jupiter-sized exoplanets have been discovered by the wobble effect they have on their star.

Correct, but they must be massive planets (by Earth standards) and orbit closely to their star for that wobble to be detected.

More to the point is the cause and effect. If all the planets in our solar system were to suddenly disappear, the Sun's fate - its path through our galaxy - would be unaffected. The same cannot be said for the disk of dust which has accreted around the Sun and includes all of the planets.

And a couple of them replied, seriously, "Tom Hanks."

Sheesh, the whole point of Apollo 13 was that it never managed to reach the lunar surface. The first man on the moon was Louis Armstrong, who was also a hell of a jazz musician and also won the Tour de France several times before being stripped of his medals for doping.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Seems a little disingenuous to single out only the Japanese on this. You need to compare their data to that of everywhere else before you start jumping on Japanese students as being unusually dumb.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's hard to decide the East or the West, or right or left for some people. When I was a kid, teachers often made us stand in line and ordered turn left or right, and there were always some kids turned the other way.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

MocheakeDEC. 11, 2013 - 09:31AM JST American students probably aren't much different. Money can make you prosperous but it can't 'buy' you brains.

Not only students but the majority of the American population is struggling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0RH0cYs4lw

It's not "ONLY JAPAN's" problem. It's a worldwide concern. Whether it's a basic knowledge(on any subject) or not, chances are we human beings from time to time "FORGET" the things we've learned. I couldn't even remember the order of the 8 planets myself. That doesn't mean I'm dumb, I didn't studied it, or I lacked interest on the matter , though.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

But, to many, Japan is the center of the universe! However, I tend to agree with the professor. Many students (and adults) have never progressed passed an elementary level of education. Most of my students are geographically and astronomically ignorant. They don't do too well in the common sense area either. Many of the textbooks I use have critical thinking exercises in them. It is often very hard to contain myself when I hear some of ridiculous responses I get to the critical thinking exercises. I suppose one can't expect too much in a country where the students are taught to pass tests based on memorization skills and not reasoning skills and where a passing grade is a meager 31%.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Seems a little disingenuous to single out only the Japanese on this

It's not that anyone is singling out the Japanese, it's that they regularly single themselves out by insisting that their education system is vastly superior that that of other countries.

0 ( +6 / -5 )

@Tessa I generally hear the Japanese people I know complaining about the rote system of learning and lack of critical thinking skills in Japanese education and the least said about the admitted car crash of English education the better. Japan, a country which can't really blame the influence crackpot religious pseudoscience, should be very concerned about this level of scientific ignorance in a subject they have traditionally done quite well in. I'm sure many Japanese will be very concerned.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sheesh, the whole point of Apollo 13 was that it never managed to reach the lunar surface. The first man on the moon was Louis Armstrong, who was also a hell of a jazz musician and also won the Tour de France several times before being stripped of his medals for doping.

That reminds me once I read a joke on reader's digest that said that a father and son went to the theater to watch Apollo 13, and when the movie ended the son, about 7 years old said: "I know why they couldn't land on the moon, it was because Forrest Gump was piloting". Louis Armstrong´s song teaches (What a wonderful world) the colors, not the spatial orientation of celestial bodies

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is pretty sad, but if they aren't taught these things then how would they know?

@Mocheake, American students are more likely to nail these answers. We even have classes for Astronomy in high school. Don't try to call us rich & stupid. Implying every student in America is rich is a false image you've been riding on for your entire lifetime. Whatever helps you rest at night.. I guess^.^

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Unless something needs to be learned for an exam, your average Japanese person won't know it. That's why there's a serious lack of creativity, general knowledge and common sense in Japan.

I always laugh at these ex-pats view of "average Japanese person" which basically sums up their lack of interaction among the local population because of their own language deficiency.

Let's consider the recent results of Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies released just recently in which Japan scored the highest. Before some posters start harping on "rote learning" BS, the survey measures skills such as these.

"Roughly every fifth Finn and Japanese reads at high levels (Level 4 or 5 on the Survey of Adult Skills). This means, for example, that they can perform multiple-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts that involve conditional and/or competing information; and they can make complex inferences and appropriately apply background knowledge as well as interpret or evaluate subtle truth claims or arguments. They are also good at numbers: they can analyse and engage in complex reasoning about quantities and data, statistics and chance, spatial relationships, change, proportions and formulae; perform tasks involving multiple steps and select appropriate problem-solving strategies and processes; and understand arguments and communicate well-reasoned explanations for answers or choices."

Don't fear. Who cares if you can't do any of the above. At least you had the priviledge of being educated in a society where "common sense" and "creativity" is advanced. (facepalm)

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

@Nigelboy 'Rote learning BS' Interesting that most Japanese people I know complain about rote learning. You know, Japanese people who were educated at Japanese schools in Japan. Oh, and since we are discussing education, perhaps you didn't take full advantage of the 'priviledge' of your education ( break your nose velocity face palm ).

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It is not just Japanese students, it is all students. I was and still am a student, we practically never go out unless it is night time..in fact, I can tell you more about constellations than where the sun rises and sets (although I was a girl scout so I did have to learn some things, which I enjoyed!). As a student, exams and having fun have a priority over "oooh look! The sun is rising!", most of the time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Its more to do with the Japanese culture. They don't necessarily bother themselves about how things work or why. They just work with it and go with the flow.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

—But a more basic problem is that most people can’t tell east from west. For a lot of us, the left is west and the right is east.

If they're looking at a map with north oriented at the top, then the left IS west and the right IS east. I think the poster meant to refer to how they consider the U.S. a "western" country even though it's east of Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So much for the superior Japanese education system.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

So much for the superior Japanese education system.

...is what I'd LIKE to say, but I have a feeling the college students here (the U.S.) would not fare much better.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Hmm, my astronomical knowledge is very rusty, but I can point out the north star and about 3 constellations. (Helpful if you're lost anywhere without phone or GPS coverage.) I can name all the planets, and I know that we're the 3rd planet from the sun between Venus and Mars.... We're in a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, we orbit a "young" sun with billions of years on it. Right now that's about all I can pull out of my brain without running for a book.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I marvel at folks who don't know some basic facts discussed here. I see several people even saying they're irrelevant largely irrelevant, that they wouldn't remember them even if they were taught. For example, I honestly can not fathom going through life without using the knowledge of which direction the sun "moves". That piece of info has saved me grief a few times while exploring new cities. Handy tool, and it's free!

Seriously? This is your argument? Give me the chemical composition of the air you breathe off the top of your head. How can you POSSIBLY not know that?????!! I mean you breathe it ALL the time.

That's....actually pretty basic info, too. Everyone should be able to swing some good guesses at that.

The land of the rising sun

I just had a mental image of the flag, with "(east!)" scribbled on it with a Sharpie. :-P

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Unless something needs to be learned for an exam, your average Japanese person won't know it. That's why there's a serious lack of creativity, general knowledge and common sense in Japan.

That is exactly right. The entrance examination culture aims at one skill: passing exams. Teachers teach to the exam and students do not wish to be bothered to know anything not related to the exam. It is a miserable culture filled with long hours of cramming before coughing up the "facts" on the exam. The exam culture kills learning for the sake of learning and smothers the free time in which one could learn something interesting on one's own.

If I can thank the American elementary and secondary educational system for nothing else at least I can be grateful for the time it gave me to learn things on my own. In fact independent study time was part of the curriculum. I learned about the planets and the stars largely on my own in second grade. I moved on to Civil War ironclad history somewhere between the second and third grade, while becoming fascinated with paleontology and the Wild West. The books I read then were not required and I was not examined on them. Many of them I read during my long summer vacations--for which homework was not required. Meanwhile, I won prizes at school for my posters. None of this was practical but it developed my mind. In Junior and senior high school I discovered to my amazement that teachers liked the way I wrote. The reading I did on my own must have done it. We worked hard at school but we had free time and my friends and I were always interested on something serious that was not demanded by the school.

The US educational system is different now with a perverse version of the so-called "Asian Model" taking over. That means cramming and teaching and "learning" for tests. Steve Jobs came out of my educational culture. No Steve Jobs will be produced by the present one. And yes, American pupils will be as ignorant about the planets and stars as the Japanese.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Not sure why all of the negatives. I just made a little jest, but think some people are getting defensive with the "my country vs. your country... who is better" attitude. I just made a little jest, but believe me, I know there are problems with people not really learning for the long term.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Just over half of respondents (56%) answered that the seemingly changing shape of the moon as we see it from earth is caused by the relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth.

That sure explains it - "the relative positions of the sun, moon and Earth." It's all so clear now!

zichi: "stars don't move"

I dunno, some scientists say that the stars in our galaxy are moving along at quite a clip!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think student knew globe rotates, not sun. So in order to be polite, they chose one of given answers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In USA, Sun shows in Calif. first. While Calif people go to swim, Eastern people are still sleeping. So, this kind of questions do not work in some places. So, there are Western, Central and Eastern time zones I am pretty sure USA students will fail this quiz..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

In USA, Sun shows in Calif. first. While Calif people go to swim, Eastern people are still sleeping. So, this kind of questions do not work in some places.

...This is news to me. Please explain how you came to think this; I'm genuinely curious.

I suspect you may have some confusion about U.S. time zones. (By the way, there are six of them covering the states.) If anything, the zones make it EASIER for Americans to imagine the east-west "movement" of the sun. The TV schedules reflect it! :-D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I once had a class of 18-year olds who couldn't identify Africa on a map.

It was the Africa-shaped area, to the south-west of Europe, with the word "Africa" written on it in huge red letters.

I'm not surprised by these results one little bit.

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@ExExpert: I am from Japan. I had to go to a University in So, Calif and lived in Newport Beach when I was young. then I moved to Nevada. I have one of my daughters live in PA and my grand daughter went to a University in East. That is why I know /The sun comes to Calif first and then move up up and go to east. There are plenty of tourists come to Vegas. They just can;t wake up tp use hotels' pools in the mornings but Calif. people just use in the mornings. Sin city is 24 hour city so it does not matter when tourists wake up. We watch TV in Western time zone,. Boston, Eastern. former cowboy states, Central.

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That is why I know /The sun comes to Calif first and then move up up and go to east.

Classic : )

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@incabrasi' While we watch 6:00 am news in West, eastenl states in USA is still dark. When Washinton DC news comes to West, we are alreqady in the afternoon. Obamacare news, we have to wait in the evening.

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@toshiko

One last try.... If you're watching the 6.00am news in California, then it's 9.00am in New York, I promise you.

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@incabrasi: wrote: There really are some astonishing gaps in the knowledge of perfectly intelligent university students here. My favourites are: "Name a country partly in Europe and partly in Asia." (answer: "Africa"), and "How long ago was the "wild west", before the invention of the car when cowboys rode around on horses?" (Answer: "About six thousand years ago.")

Cars were not marketed 6,000 years ago,. Africa is not one country. The Continent Africa is not mear Europe or Asia. Calif 6 am is about 2 am in NY. America was Indian country/ there was no cowboys or wild west 6,000 years ago.

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