Who is Osama bin Laden?

Who is Osama bin Laden? Boing Boing posts Sean Bonner’s screen grab:


“Osama” searches spiked: Two thirds of those asking  “who is Osama bin Laden?” were 13 to 17 years old, reports Yahoo.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I don’t see the big deal. While there may be many reasons that teenagers *should* know who OBL is, the fact of the matter is that when you’re that age, world politics is not really on the radar. At least for most teens.

    Indeed, I might be inclined to think that a teenager for whom world politics was really important had his or her priorities screwed up and should get to reading some good books, practicing his or her writing, learning some math, trying new hairstyles, watching excellent movies, and looking for dates.

    Even for many non-teenagers — why on earth should some secretary working in an office pool in Des Moines care who Osama is? And if she doesn’t care, how is she going to learn? Not everyone is a political junkie like so many bloggers and blog commenters.

    Right off the top of your head: Who’s the Prime Minister of Japan? I don’t know. And Japan’s been ALL OVER the news the last month. The reason I don’t know is because I don’t care: it doesn’t influence me in any way and I don’t have time to keep abreast of everything. And I’m a political junkie.

    Seriously: this is not a problem. I don’t expect everyone to have read Shakespeare, I don’t expect everyone to know who Descartes is, and I don’t expect someone who was 7 on September 11, 2001, to necessarily have any idea who Osama Bin Laden is.

  2. “…Who is Osama bin Laden?”

    Update title: Who WAS Usama bin Laden?

  3. SuperSub says:

    Michael – Something tells me that in 1955 teenagers could tell you who Hitler and Stalin were.

  4. The difference being that Osama Bin Ladin wasn’t anywhere near the threat to our national survival that both Hitler and Stalin were. Relatively speaking, Bin Ladin was a punk.

    Since his threat was snuffed out well before he was snuffed why worry about him? Teenagers generally live in too small a world to allow anything that isn’t immediately important to be granted entry. Bin Ladin wasn’t important.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Perhaps. Hitler’s more likely than Stalin, I’d think. But in 1955 there were fewer things to do, watch, and listen to, and Donald Duck was sieg heiling right in the Fuehrer’s face. There hasn’t been anything at all like the cultural mainstreaming of Hitler with respect to OBL, and even if there had been, there isn’t anything like the dominant monoculture of the network days.

    A better question would be whether there were teenagers in 1973 who didn’t know who Lee Harvey Oswald was.

    And remember, while it’s certainly a safe bet that a majority of teenagers probably know who Osama Bin Laden is, that by itself is not reason to expect such knowledge of any particular person who doesn’t.

  6. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Sorry… my post should be read in response to SuperSub, not allen.

  7. My oldest asked who bin Laden was when she overheard her dad tell me that we got him. When I said, “you know, al Qaeda, 9/11” she recognized whom I meant. The Middle East has been in the news a lot lately, and I don’t blame kids for not necessarily instantly recognizing the significance of one Arab name vs. another.

  8. Could it be that the social studies curriculum that these children study does not include mention of the 9/11 events, or of Osama Bin Laden? They aren’t going to know about him, unless someone has taken the time to explain it to them.

    What’s great though is that through social media, their ignorance is revealed, and hopefully their friends have thoughtfully responded with “He’s that dude who was hiding in a cave in Afghanistan.”

  9. Cranberry says:

    I’m pretty sure my third grader knows who UBL is. Then again, our family subscribes to newspapers, and eat dinner together.

  10. Most of the kids around here seem to know…. but then, a lot of them listen to country music, and “Have You Forgotten” is considered a patriotic standby……

  11. Yes, 9/11 was 10 years ago but it has not been missing entirely from the news in the interim. Teenagers who haven’t picked up that information somewhere along the way must have been paying no attention at all to what’s going on in the world outside their immediate circle. Not a good thing, though we don’t know how large a share of the teen population this is, merely that it is not zero. That’s hardly surprising; it’s true of adults too.

    What struck me was that they obviously knew this was a big thing — enough to ask about it, anyway — but didn’t Google it rather than exposing their lack of knowledge to the whole world.

  12. How do these teenagers who remain ignorant not get noticed by their parents? Or do they not care?

  13. I surveyed my kids (Title I school, predominantly Hispanic freshmen). The only kids who said they didn’t know were being smart alecks. They all knew.

  14. We eat dinner as a family as well- we just don’t tend to discuss depressing topics like war. And while it’s true we canceled our subscription to the local newspaper, we do get The Economist and The Atlantic.

  15. I think some of the people not telling their children about Osama, or elementary school teachers of young children not mentioning him are doing it because they don’t want to scare the children by explaining why we should know who he is.

  16. Chartermom says:

    After reading a couple of articles like this, I asked my teenagers if any of the kids at school (very diverse high school from a socio-economic standpoint) didn’t know who OBL was. I got one of those incredulous, “why would you even ask such a stupid question, of course everyone knew who OBL was”, responses. I can’t even begin to capture in text how stupefied they were that I would even be asking such a question. When I explained that I had read a couple of articles on the internet saying that teens didn’t know who he was, my older one very quickly reminded me “Mom, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.”. Touche’

  17. Cranberry says:

    If one in five Americans believe the sun orbits the earth, it’s quite possible for many teens to have no idea who bin Laden was.

  18. damian eastwood says:

    Actually I think this a very good example and a reminder why we should take care not to assume prior or common knowledge in out teaching. Its also interesting that much of the news coverage of this made exactly this mistake.