General Knowledge

Having decided, in general terms anyway, that ‘World Book Day’ at my son’s school was not very well supported (see yesterday’s post), an example of poor general knowledge and, perhaps more relevant, lack of literacy came to light last night in BBC’s ‘In It to Win It’ (I know – I should get out more!)

One of the contestants was asked from which hymn the line “Bring me my chariot of fire” came from. Now admittedly not everyone went to an old-fashioned school like I did where ‘Jerusalem’ was sung at least once a week. Nowadays perhaps it’s only England rugby fans who sing it (although to be fair it’s also frequently sung by the ‘Barmy Army’ at England Tests and at the Last Night of the Proms). Only those obsessed with film trivia of course know that ‘Chariots of Fire’ was a mistaken misquote from Blake’s famous poem.

Clearly last night’s contestant neither attended an old-fashioned school nor followed England’s rugby nor knew her film trivia as her immediate response to the question was: “I don’t have a clue Dale.” After much deliberation though she did guess correctly thus narrowly escaping the embarrassment of picking ‘Rock of Ages’ or ‘Abide with Me’!

Her next question she found even more taxing. “Charlie Higson has written a series of books about the early adventures of which fictional character?” Now I have to admit I didn’t know the answer to this question but it was the comments she made as she considered the options that I couldn’t help but note.

She opened with, “Again I don’t know – I’m not very good with reading” but promptly dismissed the first incorrect option of Indiana Jones. Then, when pondering the second and as it happens correct option of James Bond she said: “I didn’t even know that James Bond were books. I thought they were just films”! She then went on to pick the second wrong answer of Sherlock Holmes.

I don’t have a problem with her getting it wrong (as it happens Sherlock Holmes would have been my guess) but not to know that the James Bond novels were the work of Ian Fleming and not to know the words of Jerusalem seems to me to show a lack of general knowledge that should surely bar someone from a quiz show where such large sums (up to £100,000 for those that don’t watch it) are available.

There is of course the possibility that the BBC think it is far more entertaining for us to watch people get questions wrong on a Saturday night. After all the late great Douglas Adams observed that:

 “…after he was awarded the Galactic Institute’s Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn’t stand was a smartass.”

The programme itself is already inherently cruel in its adherence to the Adams theory in that the person who secures the most money for the ‘winners’ fund’ can be kicked out at the last minute and leave empty-handed. Someone who has sat there watching others answering questions can then be catapulted into the aptly named ‘Winners’ Row’ at the very end and take their share of spoils they haven’t even contributed to.

It just seems bizarre to me that people compete in competitions like Mastermind and University Challenge for the kudos of merely winning and someone who doesn’t know the words of possibly our most famous hymn and the works of one of our great authors manages to win £16,666 of TV licence payers’ money!

2 thoughts on “General Knowledge

  1. As someone who sat in open-mouthed astonishment at the lack of intelligence of that particular contestant (yes, we need to get out more too!), I completely agree. But what worries me even more is that these people are not only prepared to publicly demonstrate their lack of general knowledge but they even seem quite proud of it! What happened to the days when brothers who took part in “15 to 1” weren’t even prepared to tell their sister when they were on out of embarrassment that they obviously didn’t win!

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