So, while I was meant to be doing an assignment (writing several hundred words for a fictitious music magazine), I instead went off on a tangent and decided to see how many Australian Prime Ministers I could name off the top of my head, then American Presidents, then compare the two.

Australian Prime Ministers
John Howard
Paul Keating
Bob Hawke
Malcolm Fraser
Gough Whitlam
Harold Holt
Robert Menzies
John Curtin
Billy Hughes
Edmund Barton

Grand total: 10

U.S. Presidents
George Bush
Bill Clinton
George Bush
Ronald Reagan
Jimmy Carter
Gerald Ford
Richard Nixon
Lyndon B. Johnson
John F. Kennedy
Isaac(?) Eisenhower
Harry Truman
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Calvin Coolidge
Warren Harding
Woodrow Wilson
Teddy Roosevelt
Grover Cleveland
William(?) Garfield
William(?) Taft
Abraham Lincoln
William(?) Henry Harrison
Martin Van Buren
Andrew Jackson
Thomas Jefferson
George Washington

Grand total: 25, with a questionable degree of accuracy on some first names.

Now, that might not be as bad as it seems. The US has surely had far more leaders than Australia, since we’re 112 years younger and have no term limits, resulting in assholes like Menzies and Howard overstaying their welcome by more than a decade. But checking Wikipedia and then applying the magic of mathematics shows us this:

10 of 25 Australian PMs named, for a total of 2/5ths or 40%

25 of 42 US Presidents named. My maths skills break down here, but that’s clearly more than half.

So, even when you take statistics into account, I can still name more American Presidents than Australian Prime Ministers. This is entirely due to pop culture, of course. I only know the name Martin van Buren because of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is harassed by the street gang “The Van Buren Boys,” and I associate Harry Truman most strongly with his Futurama appearance, in which he orders an Air Force colonel to: “Invent NASA and tell them to get off their fannies!”

Of course, it’s also worth noting that the only reason I could name Edmund Barton is because of the ad campaign the federal government put out about five years ago for the sole purpose of teaching us who the hell he was, as part of an indignified response to the discovery that more Australian children could name the first American president than they could the first Australian Prime Minister. This was apparently deemed a worthwhile use of taxpayer money.

So, to sum up, if you know more about another country’s history than your own, you really only have popular culture and/or the education system to blame, and have no reason to feel guilty. Just as long as you get your ass up to King’s Park on ANZAC day to salute the Diggers who were, according to popular opinion, fighting for Australia’s honour. Maybe even defending Australia from the imminent menace of the Germans’ conquest of Europe. (pro tip: ANZAC Day is blustery nationalism, our role in WWI was to be cannon fodder for the British Empire, and the veterans of the Kokoda Track are far more deserving of our praise.)

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