Approximately one week ago, my dad “drunk-dialed” me. At 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday night – after a few martinis with a co-worker – my dad called me to act as his “lifeline” for a menial trivia game the two of them had been playing. Immediately my dad fired question after question.

“What are the names of the three great pyramids of Giza?” he asked first.

Next he inquired, “What is the capital of Madagascar?”

I was stumped. I asked the others in the Campus Times office and received similar responses – we were all clueless.

My dad’s co-worker, a Norwegian native, had been arguing that European students were brighter, more intelligent individuals than American students. While I may not be the ideal test specimen to act as my father’s lifeline, I find it interesting that the entire Campus Times staff was stumped by this simple trivia.

Is the Norwegian right? Are we, Americans, less intelligent than our neighbors from across the pond?

It seems to me that the issue is not intelligence but rather academia. I spent last spring break in Rome and, while there, I made friends with several Italian students.

One of the boys was not only fluent in Italian, English, Spanish and French but could also read Latin and ancient Greek. Such extensive knowledge is certainly built upon experience and accessibility. Perhaps the cultural variety in Europe nourishes a broad academic experience.

The other student, an engineer, has recently told me that he has classes and exams on Saturdays due to the rigor of his field of study. This type of program seems unfathomable to me. I rarely make it to all of my weekly classes!

Are European universities demanding a higher quality of performance from their students or are we just lazy?

Undoubtedly, a variety of factors influence the education standards in European nations versus the United States of America – in their form of government, funding, expectations upon students, etc.

However, it appears to me that the cultural variety that is omnipresent in Europe must have an influence upon their education. The immediate access to trans-European travel opens doorways to experience entirely different cultures, therefore broadening the students’ social awareness.

I have recently discovered that in certain states, because of the failure of the public school system to meet the state’s educational standards, there is a large calling for Latin teachers.

“Why Latin teachers?” you ask. The presence of these teachers builds the illusion that the standards for education are being raised.

That is good news for me, a classics major. However, this does not fully alleviate the problem. Perhaps it would be prudent to take a few pointers from our European cousins.

Ricketts can be reached at

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