Home > BBC, Humour, Science > One in 10 UK children thinks Queen invented telephone – NOT

One in 10 UK children thinks Queen invented telephone – NOT


According to an article on BBC News one in ten UK children thinks the Queen invented the telephone. One in twenty think that Luke Skywalker was the first man to set foot on the moon. And an amazing 60% of nine and ten year olds think that Sir Isaac Newton invented fire.

I think not.

What this survey shows is that children have a sense of humour. What it shows is that, when presented with a bunch of boring questions, the average 10 year old will have a laugh and choose the stupidest answer. I probably would too.

The real story here is the poor quality of the BBC reporting. Without even considering the plausibility of the results the reporter presented the results of an online survey as fact.

May I suggest an alternative story:

Gullible BBC reporter outsmarted by a bunch of 10 year olds

When presented with a survey showing that “60% of nine and ten year olds thought that Sir Isaac Newton invented fire” a gullible BBC reporter naively presented this story at face value. The reporter did not consider the plausibility of this factoid, nor did they seek a second source to verify the factoids.

Which is more likely: the ten year olds were having a laugh by giving stupid answers to a boring survey, or the ten year olds were genuinely ignorant? I think the children proved themselves smarter than at least on BBC reporter.

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  1. Mar 13, 2010 at 16:27

    The meta point there is very loud and clear: ‘who invented what, Who Born and Died When’ – these kind of questions are no more questions of intelligence. Press on internet, or turn on the pages of encyclopedias or dictionaries, you will get the answer. All these irrelevant stuff informaions need not be stored or stuffed into the brains of our children or even adults for that matter. We have better things to do.

    • Martin Budden
      Mar 14, 2010 at 08:07

      You’re right. Knowing the answers to questions about who did what and when does not indicate intelligence. Neither does it indicate interest in or understanding of science.

      There’s a great quote (unfortunately, somewhat ironically, I can’t remember who said it) that goes something like: “The problem with education is that it turns a child’s ‘why’ into ‘who, what, where and when’ “.

  2. Nick Harris
    Mar 13, 2010 at 21:27

    I agree the BBC have got this badly wrong.
    This survey is nonsense, conducted by a company, OnePoll, that does surveys to order and then manufactures “news” from them.
    This interesting article in today’s Independent explains more:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/nigel-hawkes-and-our-survey-saysnothing-you-can-rely-on-1920720.html
    The BBC should know better.

    • Martin Budden
      Mar 14, 2010 at 08:13

      Interesting article. Thanks for the link.

  3. Flashman
    Mar 15, 2010 at 11:14

    It beggars belief that the newspapers write this and in the same article state that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. He merely patented it – Elisha Gray invented it 16 years prior to Bell patenting it… So who’s the more foolish….?

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