Friday, August 31, 2007

Teen Pageants, Education and South Africa? What a combination!

This week South Africa was quite a lot in the news here in the USA. And it was also on the morning programs (radio and TV), and on late night comic talk shows. Why? Because during the Miss Teen USA pageant, Miss South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, was asked the question: Why do you think 20% of Americans can’t find the USA on a map? Not only did she totally bungled her answer by stringing non-related words together that didn’t make any sense, her answer was totally off the mark. She said “US Americans” can’t because many people don’t have maps. Huh?

“US Americans”, who are they? Do you get Canadian Americans and Mexico Americans, French Americans, etc. Aren’t they all Americans? I guess I am now a South African America. No, no, no! I am an African American. Born an African, nationalized an American. I have always thought that calling people Italian Americans, Russian Americans, African Americans, and so on, is the most ridiculous thing to do. I understand that by doing so people try to point out people’s heritage, but you know what’s funny, I have never heard anyone speak of themselves in such a way, it’s always about others that they speak like that. Why? Surely they are all Americans. And where you came from doesn’t really matter. Once here you are bound to change into some sort of an American. In any case, an American is so many different things; one cannot really pin it down to a heritage and then expect people to say: “Yeah, I know exactly what you talking about.”

The maps. Yes, there could be many people that don’t have maps in their houses, but surely the classrooms where they received some sort of education must have had maps. And isn’t it a fact that one of the first things a kid learns in geography class (Social Science or Studies, or whatever they call it now), is to point out where he lives. Where his town, his state, his country is? And it’s like bicycle riding, you don’t really forget that. And she went on to say that she thinks the education in the USA should help people in South Africa and Iraq…Stop the bus right there. I know that Iraq could be dragged into her answer because there is some reference to Iraq in every news bulletin in the USA, but South Africa? Who planted any seed of South Africa into her? Watching Oprah maybe? The only time South Africa was on the news this week, apart from Miss Teen USA, was when a statue of Nelson Mandela was introduced in London and that was only on BBC America, no really watched by many “US Americans”. Maybe the education in Iraq needs help. Certainly Sudan needs help and many parts of Africa need help, and yes, please, American education needs help. But I am not sure South African education needs help. Well, maybe they do. Maybe the population at large needs to be educated to vote in another government, black or white, I don’t care, because the current government cannot realize that the country is going down an African drain, that crime and violence is ruining the country. Yes South Africa needs education too, but not the kind that Miss South Carolina is referring to. I wonder if Miss South Carolina knows where South Africa is on the map. Certainly many people that I have come across when they heard I am from South Africa, have looked at me strangely and asked: “Where is that?” Duh…South…duh…Africa…duh. Which is many times followed by: “…but you’re white? Oh, my God! The “some” people that really needs the educational help is right here in America.

Off course the Miss Teen USA is a Donald Trump show and who know, just maybe, it was all planned to get the necessary publicity. No I am not cynical; The Donald will do anything and comment on anything to get his name in the news. In previous pageants we had someone fell, and we had a drug addict crowned. Maybe it was planned: You will fall; you will be an addict; you will bungle you question... I also have to question the research department of old Donald’s Miss Teen USA company. Who says 20% of Americans cannot find their own country on a world map? A poll? Is that an ACT question? I personally don’t believe the number is that high? Every nation will have a number of people that won’t know where to find their own country on a map, and every nation will have its ignorant and dumb asses, but I don’t believe 20% in America can’t find the USA on a map. If that is true, if the number is that high, then America and its education system must blame itself for being the ignorant ones. If it is true then Miss South Carolina’s answer is not so bad, she is doing as well as the education she received.

Lastly, in Miss Upton’s defense, she is only 17 years old, and the question was a stupid one. I know many people at the age of seventeen would have struggled to answer that question on such an occasion on national television.

But you can’t keep this girl down. She is poking fun at you now. Why don’t you go and try Miss Upton’s quiz at People magazine. See how well you will do in geography.

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