Was it nerves, pressure or just a plain ol’ case of “the lights are on, but no one’s home”?

Many today are questioning the state of American education after Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA, suffered an apparent and oh-so unfortunate “extreme blonde moment” during Friday night’s NBC broadcast of the Miss Teen USA Pageant in Pasadena, Calif.


Miss South Carolina Teen USA Lauren Caitlin Upton fumbles through an answer during Friday’s Miss Teen USA Pageant on NBC

When asked about the reason why some Americans could not locate the U.S. on a world map, Upton provided an answer that some call moronic and hilarious, while others say it’s painful to watch and typical for young people in America today.

The 18-year-old Upton, who hails from Lexington, S.C., made it to the final five round where she was competing against contestants from Colorado, West Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey.

As part of the competition, Upton was asked what host Mario Lopez called a “thought-provoking final question” selected at random.

Upton selected judge Aimee Teegarden, an actress from NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” who asked her this question: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the United States on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

The South Carolina beauty gave this strange, grammarless response:

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children.

Throughout the response, host Lopez stood alongside Upton, and appeared to be stifling a chuckle, reminiscent of comedian Harvey Korman’s inability to control his own laughter when appearing in skits with Tim Conway on “the Carol Burnett Show” of the 1970s.

One WND reader, Bruce Schmelz of Colorado, said, “Unless you haven’t noticed, social studies classes are no longer taught in public schools. … Any child that shows up for roll call can expect to pass the grade level he or she is in. Ability has been replaced with ‘feeling good’ about one’s self image. Why can’t many Americans find any country on a map? Could it be that they have been brainwashed by those that control the airwaves and print media? Miss South Carolina isn’t the only idiot walking the streets. Have you ever watched Jay Leno’s ‘Jaywalking’ segment on ‘the Tonight Show?’ Miss South Carolina? Sure she’s pretty; but if she isn’t a product of the No Child Left Behind doctrine, I’ll eat my hat.”

Upton’s answer has sparked plenty of other reaction on the Internet, especially after it was posted on the video-sharing site YouTube.

Comments on messageboards range from ridicule to heartfelt empathy, including:

  • Wow … what the hell was that? P.S. what’s the difference between a regular American and a U.S. American?


  • As a U.S. American, I am offended!



  • She probably can’t find the U.S. on a map … such as, such as



  • Yay for dumb blonde Americans! It’s idiots like this that make me ashamed to admit I am American, too.



  • All you have to do to win is talk about Iraq and starving children in Africa no matter what they ask you!



  • My God, I got stupider just listening to that.



  • I’ve never been more embarrassed for someone … ouch it hurts.



  • Well, in her defense, she’s just talking about the U.S. Americans, and not the American Americans in the United States.



  • You can say whatever you want, but it did answer the question. Just hear between the lines. *lack of education, lack of education*



  • If anyone should be embarrassed by this woman and her lack of ability to communicate in rudimentary fashion and know the difference between Americans and U.S. Americans, it would be her teachers. I would be ashamed to admit that I was one of her teachers.



  • All those who had any part of teaching this poor child should be called on the carpet for in her we see the failings of the public schools. If teachers were held accountable for what a student did or did not learn, perhaps then we could have hope.



  • OK, first of all, she’s hot. So it doesn’t matter how smart she is. Second of all, I would like to see all of you criticizing her get in front of millions of viewers and answer a tough question. She probably had the toughest question of them all. She’ll end up making more money than most of us anyways, so I say great job, South Carolina.



  • Although the response did seem confusing and not thought through, maybe she is just intimidated by speaking in public. When was the last time you had to speak in public in front of an audience of thousands and broadcast live to an audience of millions? Some people can’t even publicly speak in a classroom of 30 people.



  • I think it went something more like this:


Ditzthought: OMG I couldn’t find the U.S. on a map if I tried either, so I better come up with something that sounds like I pay attention to the world outside pageants.

Ditzspeak: stammer stammer stammer SOUTH AFRICA stammer stammer UNITED STATES stammer IRAQ stammer EDUCATION stammer stammer SOUTH AFRICA UNITED STATES stammer stammer stammer stammer IRAQ!

Ditzthought: I think it worked.

The pageant was won by Miss Colorado, Hilary Carol Cruz.

Upton was third runner-up. That’s “such as” fourth place.

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