Sunday, July 14, 2002
It was actually a nice, sunny day here for once, so instead of going to see Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones with my friend, I went with her and two of her friends to a park and sat outside for a while. Contrary to what scientists had previously believed, it is possible for an American to get sunburned in Britain, though it takes the effort of not using sunscreen and sitting out for several hours in direct sunlight. The afternoon was fun, and we spent most of the time talking. One of my friend's friends had majored in Molecular Genetics, the other in Archaeology, and my friend in Ancient Near East and Egyptology (I would quite possibly kill to be able to take those last two courses of study). They were all either 21 or 22, and so had finished their Bachelor's degrees, since college is only three years over here. What struck me, though, was that they claimed to have forgotten most of what they'd learned (my friend had learned to read heiroglyphs; how cool is that?!?). Now, it was frustrating yet understandable when I'd mention something like George of the Jungle and they wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about. I'd already resigned myself to the fact that most of my pop culture knowledge was absolutely useless over here. What got me was when I'd mention something like Mercia (a pre-Norman British kingdom), and they'd all have a blank look on their faces. I'm not kidding when I say that I was utterly crushed by this, and them telling me that their schools only ever taught one year of British history didn't alleviate my depression. We in America are constantly told how smart the Brits are, how they're so much more aware of history, the world, the feelings of others, the utilization of nanotechnology in the creation of bionic implants in freshwater mussels for the purpose of harnessing body energy to cure cancer, and all that stuff. We Americans look at our own countrymen who appear to know nothing about history and point vaguely to the Caribbean when asked to find the Philippines, and have no idea what a Jacobite is. What's sad is when the Brits, who give the impression of being Renaissance Men and brilliant women, who practically radiate an image of sublime elegance and educated wisdom, can't tell you what a Jacobite is. The girls I was hanging out with were all cool people, but I'm in a bit of a funk right now since my illusions have been shattered. Sigh.