Are You Smarter Than the Libertarian Party Nominee?

3 mins read

Find the current events survey here.

As the election nears, the media continues to bombard viewers with analyses of the presidential debates. Fact checkers publicize the candidates’ blunders on current events, which encompass topics from unemployment rates to American energy policies.

On Thursday, September 8, the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson — who is backed by ten percent of registered voters— was asked what he would do about Aleppo if he were elected. He replied, “And what is Aleppo?” Mike Barnicle, the MSNBC panelist who asked him the question, said, “You’re kidding,” and proceeded to explain to the candidate that Aleppo was the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Our shock at the lack of knowledge of foreign affairs displayed by Johnson prompted us to ask ourselves how informed M-A students are of current events. Do they know what Aleppo is?

We decided to ask M-A social studies teachers to submit questions that they felt every informed student should be able to answer, and created a multiple choice and short answer survey. We sent this survey out to a random list of 142 student school emails and shared it on the M-A Class of 2017 Facebook group (which has 313 members). We kept the form open for a week and received a total of over one hundred responses.

Below is the survey:





Below are the results:


Correct answer: A city in Syria

Aleppo is the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis since 2012. President Bashar Assad’s forces command the western half of Aleppo, while rebels control the eastern half. The fighting in Aleppo has led to over 25,000 deaths.


Correct answer: The minimum sentence for certain crimes that judges cannot lower

Mandatory minimums typically apply to drug cases. For instance, for possession of 100 kilograms of marijuana with the intent to distribute it, the federal mandatory minimum is five years in prison. For 1,000 kilograms, the mandatory minimum is 10 years, and after a third offense, the mandatory minimum is life in prison. Find a complete list of federal mandatory minimums here.


Correct answer: The Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which will connect Illinois and North Dakota, will be about 1,172-miles long and will transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day. Native Americans are strongly opposed to the pipeline because it is designed to pass through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and thus may threaten their clean water supply.


Correct answer: The question referred to the Syrian refugee crisis and its cause. Syria’s civil war stemmed directly from peaceful protests against the government in 2011. A religious war between Assad’s minority Alawite sect with Shiite fighters from Iran against Sunni rebel groups also spurred the violence.

This was one of the hardest questions for students, as most answers were vague. 12 students answered simply with the word ‘war.’ Overall, 54.7 percent of students included the words “war” or “civil war” in their answer. 35.8 percent mentioned Syria in their answer, and 30.2 percent mentioned Isis.


Correct Answer: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson

Most students only named two of the four presidential candidates. 93.6 percent of students were able to name Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as two presidential candidates, and 15.5 percent were able to also name Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee. One respondent was able to name all their vice presidents as well.


Correct answer: 27

89.5 percent of students were able to correctly pin point North Korea on a map. The other 10.5 percent, however, had absolutely no idea where North Korea was. 3.8 percent of students thought that number 24 (Laos) was North Korea. Other countries such as Kyrgyzstan (nine), South Korea (26), Thailand (21), Burma(20), Sri Lanka (14), and even China (16) were chosen as well.



Correct answer: Brock Turner is a Stanford student who was tried for the sexual assault of a young woman. He was sentenced to only six months in jail with probation, but only served three months.There is no mandatory minimum for sexual assault, and this case in particular sparked widespread controversy because of the light sentence Turner received.

The majority of students surveyed were able to convey that they knew who Turner was. However, we did receive several answers that were completely incorrect: three students answered that he was a “politician,” two others said that he was an “African American man,” and another responded that he “sounds like a football player.” Seven more replied that they did not know who he was.

Out of the 113 submissions, 27.4 percent of the M-A students who took the survey received a score of 100 percent.

Mara Cavallaro is a senior and aspiring journalist. Her struggle to understand and tell her own story has taught her the importance of sharing narratives and inspiring empathy among readers. She strives to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and is most proud of her articles Full Time: Full Mile: Why We Need a Buffer Zone Around Our Schools (on the noxious effects of pesticides in rural California communities) and “Strength in Diversity”: Where M-A Falls Short (on challenges to full inclusion at M-A).

My name is Emily Young. I am a first-year journalism student and a junior at M-A. I am looking forward to writing features and articles on current events this year. Outside of school, I like to play piano and spend time with friends. In the previous two years, I played on the M-A volleyball team, but this year I have decided to pursue swimming.

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