10 surprising things kids knew in 1980 and don't have a clue about today

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10 surprising things kids knew in 1980 and don't have a clue about today

That Place That Makes Croissants, Fries, and Toast…?

Way more students correctly answered the question, “What’s the capital of France?” in 1980 than they did in 2012.

In 1980 it was the sixth most correctly answered general knowledge question. In 2012 it ranked as 23rd.

Thirty percent of 2012 test-takers also thought that Baghdad (Iraq) was the capital of Afghanistan. Another question asked which country Nairobi was the capital of and six percent of respondents gave the answer “Africa.” Twenty-one percent also found Budapest (Hungary) to be the capital of India. 

(Photo credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Steve Jobs Discovered Electricity

Electricity is just for MacBooks and iPhones, anyway. Whoever used it for anything else?

In 1980, knowing that Benjamin Franklin discovered the connection between electricity and lightning was pretty commonplace. In the general knowledge study, this question ranked 20th in terms of correct answers. This evidently insignificant fact has now dropped to 56th place.

Knowledge about another forgotten inventor, Marie Curie, the scientist who discovered radium, ranked in 1980 at 108th and now resides at 163rd.

 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

American History 101

Inundated with technology and saturated with second-by-second media, today’s young people find history to be so yesterday. In 1980, the name of the man who iconically cried, “The British are coming!” was ranked as the 23rd most-known fact. Now it’s sunk to 53rd place.

P.S. It’s Paul Revere.

Other American history factoids that fell by the wayside include knowledge of the woman who sewed the first American flag (Betsy Ross). This question fell from 58th to 79th place. And Lieutenant Colonel George Custer lost the Battle of Little Bighorn. His ranking dwindled from 84th to 171st. 

(Tetra Images - Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

Cleopatra’s Beauty Has Faded…

When you hear “Egyptian queen,” you think, “Cleopatra.” Am I right?

Apparently that’s not a universal thought. Nowadays, the matriarch that once joined forces with Mark Antony ranks just after Paul Revere at 54th most commonly known, dropping from 32nd in 1980.

(Photo by: JTB Photo /UIG via Getty Images)

Don’t Play It Again, Sam

Humphrey Bogart. Casablanca. Two pretty unforgettable names.

So it would seem.

The 1980 general knowledge test had recognition of the name “Bogart” as the male lead from the filmCasablanca ranked at 91st. Not horrible. 2012 has the iconic Bogart name ranked at 180th.

Also gone the way of Bogie? Legendary Gone With the Wind star Clark Gable. Once ranked 68th in connection to the classic film, Gable now lies at 200th—a rude awakening for culture buffs everywhere.

(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

A Medicated Public

The youth are on more prescription medicationsthan they used to be. This phenomenon may explain why knowledge of the severe headache termed “migraine” has climbed from 25th to sixth place in the last 32 years.

How many times have you heard, “Mom, stop­—you’re giving me a migraine; where’s the Advil?”

(Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in the Rankings

The comic-book mega-corp DC Comics is far from passé. Since the Dark Knight rose in 2008, they've brought Watchmen, The Green Lantern and Man of Steel to the box office.

DC Comics has been very busy triumphing over evil and lowering student’s knowledge of history. The ranking of Batman’s ever-important secret identity of “Bruce Wayne” has jumped from 115th place to the 87th most common piece of knowledge. His Butler’s name, “Alfred,” rose from 137th to 101st place.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Breaking: Cigarettes Are Cooler Than Ever

Millennials’ taste for all things vintage has dug up an old enemy: cigarettes.

In 1980, the brand of cigarette (Marlboro) that invented the flip-top box was a barely known nugget of information. The factoid has become twice as known today.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Grab Your Bagpipes

Vital information: The short pleated skirt worn by men in Scotland is called a “kilt.”

In all seriousness, this is a subject millennials know more about. In 1980, this answer was ranked 79th. In 2012, it jumped to 25th place. 

(Photo credit: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ll Never Grow Up!

Ol’ Walt Disney would be proud.

General knowledge of the last name of the villainous captain in Peter Pan has shot up from 73rd to a staggering 18th place—ranked just before the name of Tarzan’s girlfriend “Jane.” The name of the “Cheshire” Cat in Alice in Wonderland also jumped from 106th to 77th place.

Who needs science, history and geography anyway in Never-Never Land?

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)


As it turns out, kids these days actually do know less than they used to.

Kent State University researchers conducted a study that evaluated the general knowledge of students in the U.S. during the year 2012 by using an exhaustive test first implemented in 1980. The study ranks the most commonly known facts among college students and compares those rankings to their 1980 equivalents.

Click through to see the major differences in what kids know about pop culture, science, history, and geography. You may be surprised at what the study reveals.

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