The names Alexander Hamilton, Geoffrey Chaucer and Desmond Tutu don't ring many bells with one group of California college students--but they do a lot better when it comes to soap operas.
Sixty of the 100 students who struck out at recognizing those big names in history, literature and current events said they were familiar with Erika Kane, a character on the television soap opera "All My Children."
"I think students today are as bright and motivated as those of 20 years ago," said Judith Remy Leder, the English teacher at California State University, Fullerton, who popped the questions. "They're just not into current events unless touched by them."
Less Than Half Could Identify Tutu
The teacher said less than half of the students she tested could identify Chaucer, the early English author of the "Canterbury Tales," Dante Alighieri, the poet of "The Divine Comedy," or Tutu, the South African bishop and Nobel laureate.
Just 10% had heard of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, despite his prominent presence on the $10 bill.
"Students view the university not as a place to get an education, but as a place where they can get the diploma that will get them a job," Leder said.
Not a job as president, though.
While 60% acknowledged they had heard of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, most didn't know his job, that of general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. One student guessed Gorbachev was a writer and three recognized him as a Russian ballet dancer.