In a recent video by a student organization at Texas Tech University, random students on campus took part in a survey about American history and pop culture. The results were disappointing and appalling. They were appalling because of the fact students didn’t know the answer to questions like “who is the vice president.” They were disappointing, not because respondents showed a lack of knowledge, but because of the lacking integrity by those who made the video.
The student organization responsible for the video, PoliTech, is a nonpartisan political organization. The group titled the video survey “Politically-Challenged: Texas Tech Edition.” Courtney Plunk, the group’s public relations director, asked six questions, three about American history and three about celebrities. But before that, Plunk did something interesting; she introduced a group of student by name and major, six to be exact.
This is interesting because six students are introduced in this manner, but 25 students in total were surveyed. It can be confusing when watching the video because Plunk introduces these characters as if they will be seen again. However, it’s only sporadically throughout the video that only five of them reappear and only in response to one or two questions.
One student only introduced by his first name, Ryan, is never seen again after saying his name and major. But of the nearly 1.5 million viewers of this video on YouTube, it is hard to say how many people took the time to realize Ryan was introduced to merely be a face in the crowd.
Moving forward from this poor use of source introduction, Plunk asked the six named and 19 additional unnamed students who won the Civil War, when the Civil War took place and who the U.S. won its independence from.
Plunked asked one or all of these questions to 18 of the 25 students shown. In one instance, she never returns to the student to discover if he knew the answer about the Civil War. His brief pause is accompanied by the sound of crickets and then followed by the wrong answer from another student. The same thing happens to an unnamed female student later in the video.
Of those 18 questioned on American history, only four students were shown answering more than one of the three questions.
What does it matter that only 18 of 25 were asked history questions and that only some students were asked more than one question? Those are questions that the producers of the PoliTech video don’t want viewers to ask themselves.
At the surface, this video shows a lot of ignorance on behalf of the student body. How could the 25 students shown not answer all these questions? The answer is they weren’t all given the opportunity. That was a decision made during editing and coincidentally, that is when real ignorance showed itself.
When PoliTech decided to ask questions about pop culture, they asked students to name a show Snookie appeared on, the current wife of Brad Pitt and the former wife of Brad Pitt.
Once again, the numbers game demonstrates more appalling results than the lack of American history knowledge. Five new students were introduced at the end of the video, making an appearance to answer only the pop culture questions and getting them all right. Jonathan Barnes, a student introduced early in the video who wasn’t asked a single history question suddenly reappeared and answered one about Snookie correctly.
Did Barnes know who won the Civil War? Or when it took place? Viewers don’t know, but they do know he has seen the show “Jersey Shore.”
In a video response to the “Politically Challenged” video, Plunk explained the conclusion drawn from this interesting mix of students and answers is supposed to be that students “are preoccupied with useless pop culture that is constantly being fed to them by today’s media.”
It’s unclear is she was referring to Barnes, or Ryan or the last five people introduced to the video who were only asked pop culture questions. After all, it was never revealed if along with their preoccupation of pop culture information they also knew something about American history.
According to the PoliTech organization’s website, the group is committed to providing students and the community with political information that is “both clear and unbiased,” but the message in this video is anything but clear.
Plunk assured viewers in the response video that if this same “experiment” were conducted at any other college in the nation, students would perform similarly.
It is safe to say she is right.
If this same experiment with poor editing and negative reporting were performed, perhaps any group of college students could be deliberately painted as ill informed. After all, on a campus with thousands of students stressed about exams and work, it is possible to stump someone on American history. Plunk made that clear.
Wouldn’t it be nice if PoliTech made a video accurately testing students? Then maybe people could believe her claim in the response video that she was merely delivering a “bold message to college students everywhere to be more politically involved.”
If this video by a “political group” at Texas Tech serves to demonstrate the type of work produced by students who might one day lead our nation, then the nation should prepare itself for a series of unanswered questions and deceitful statements meant to confuse listeners.