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AK Teens Rate Credibility of Famous Figures

A group of Anchorage high school juniors in an advanced placement class were asked to do the following in class:

Analyze the following list of famous figures. Rank them from 1 on down based on their credibility. Remember to weigh honesty, wisdom, and credibility equally.

Margaret Thatcher
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sarah Palin
Hillary Clinton
Bill Gates
Sandra Day O’Connor
Martha Stewart
Thomas Jefferson
Lady Ga Ga
George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Anthony Weiner

After each student had compiled his or her personal list ranking, they were asked to come together as a class, and present one list that they could all more-or-less agree upon, ranking the dozen figures.

It was an interesting assignment, without easy answers in many cases. No one on the list, whether you agree with their politics, or respect their work, is without some kind of controversy. In other words, they are all deeply flawed people (aka human). But the kids did an admirable job trying to take this list of complex people and get them listed in order.

Here is what they came up with, starting with the least credible, and working up to the most credible. You can share your own ranking in the comments.

12) Anthony Weiner


Apparently the tech-savvy, social media generation is unimpressed with Carlos Danger, his Twitter antics, and his subsequent dealings with the press. Despite his former congressional career, and his current mayoral bid in a city 4000 miles away, Señor Danger was well-known, and ranked at the bottom of the pile – dead last for credibility.

 11) Martha Stewart


As one of the only member of the list who has actually gone to prison, Martha Stewart’s record of “service” may have played into her low ranking. Easter cupcakes and cool centerpieces don’t make up for financial shenanigans.

10)  Lady Ga Ga


Also coming in close to the bottom of the pack was pop star Lady Gaga, who recently performed at the MTV Video Music Awards,  performing “Applause,” during which she underwent several wardrobe changes ending up in a seashell bra and G-string. Rumor has it the kids were less than impressed, and that the performance may have damaged the Lady’s “credibility” in the group.

9) Margaret Thatcher


The only non-American on the list was the second-lowest ranking political figure. The Iron Lady, who ended her term as Britain’s Prime Minister six years before our respondents were born ranked low. This came despite the admiration Thatcher has recently gotten from our ex-half-governor. Speaking of whom…

8) Sarah Palin


These kids remember Palin’s short time as governor, and lived through her national media tour which some referred to as the election cycle, her abdication of the governor’s office, her book tour, her Fox News stint, and all the rest of it. Even though Palin pulled in at a less-than-impressive ranking, she still did better than I thought she would.


7) Sandra Day O’Connor


I wasn’t quite sure about this one. My guess is that she was one of the lesser known figures to the participants. Still, O’Connor, the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court ranked in the bottom half. My high school class would have rated her significantly higher.

6) George W. Bush


Alaska went for Bush twice, so it was almost inevitable that Dubya would rank in the top half of the pack. Still, #43 didn’t rank as highly as I expected him to.

5) Hillary Clinton


Interestingly, the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State is the only woman who ranked in the top 50%. Recent polling in Alaska shows that in a head-to-head matchup for the Presidency, if it were held today between Clinton and Palin, Clinton would win handily. And this is in a state that hasn’t gone blue for the President since LBJ. Her credibility over Palin seems to follow that trend.


4) Bill Gates


The Microsoft bazillionaire came in at an impressive 4th place. His philanthropical work in recent years may have added to his appeal. It would have been interesting to see how Steve Jobs would have stacked up.

3) Barack Obama


Despite the vitriol in some Alaskan circles, the President made a strong showing, coming up with the bronze. Obama also won the mock election held at the school in both 2008 over McCain and 2012 over Romney. I can’t wait for this generation to be able to vote in the actual election.
2) Thomas Jefferson


The third President came in second place. The brilliant an innovative founding father was impressive in the credibility department despite the irony that he, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was a slave owner.

1) Martin Luther King, Jr.


The slain civil rights leader was an easy pick for the class – and particularly poignant during the week of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

I didn’t agree with all the rankings, and I found it interesting that the kids seemed to be the hardest on those they were the most familiar with, and the women in the group. But all in all, they could have done a lot worse.

The lesson to learn from the high school kids in Anchorage if you’re looking for credibility in their eyes?

Strive for equality, have a dream, be brilliant, and don’t dance around in your underwear or send unsolicited pictures of your junk to people you don’t know.

Sage advice from the next generation of voters.



25 Responses to “AK Teens Rate Credibility of Famous Figures”
  1. JHypers says:

    1) MLK – Great mind that came along in the right place at the right time. I seriously wonder what he would think of the US today if he was still alive.

    2) Jefferson – One of the most brilliant minds of any generation. Slave ownership was something he himself quarreled with as opposed to ignoring the obvious contradiction. I chalk it up to the era and culture he was raised in.

    3) Bill Gates – The reason he is a multi-billionaire is right in front of you (that is, if you’re using Windows). People who create tremendous value for others deserve the wealth they generate.

    4) Martha Stewart – Another entrepreneur who has created value, and that is what I recognize. The insider trading deal wasn’t a smart move, though.

    5) Sandra Day O’Connor – The longtime SCOTUS swing vote, where we can thank her for the results of the 2000 election. A classy individual who at least tried to remain on the fence as opposed to overtly conservative or liberal.

    6) Lady Ga Ga – I don’t value the entertainment she provides, but others clearly do. Kudos to her for capitalizing on that, at least.

    7) Sarah Palin – Liberals may despise her, but comparing her to the other statists on the list, her resume of atrocities doesn’t even bat an eye. I’ll take incompetence over psychopathy any day.

    8) Anthony Weiner – Creepy, depraved, hopelessly sex-addicted individual. The man needs help, and leaving a public life behind is step number one.

    9) Hillary Clinton – Having never served as a true head of government, I cannot put her any lower than this. But her actions as Secretary of State, combined with her influence as first lady to a President who bombed Serbia for 78 consecutive days, leads me to believe she is an individual who should have no power whatsoever.

    10) Margaret Thatcher – Lip service to anti-communism only gets you so far in a government position, especially when your fellow countrymen & women refer to you in an alarmingly fascistic manner. Went to war over the Falkland Islands, which seemed pretty pointless in my opinion, other than to posture one last time that century to maintain what few vestiges of the British Empire remain.

    11) Obama – Like all modern Presidents before him, he lied to get elected, and was bought by the highest bidder (Wall St.). But his continuation of most Bush-era policies, leading to exponential debt accrual, along with an apparent fetish for drone strikes, results in a repugnant human being who simply hasn’t yet reached the body count of his predecessor, which leads us to…

    12) Dubya – The manifestation of a silver spoon upbringing, ivy league education, elitist job placements, alcoholism, and born-again evangelism. Zero regard for the 4th Amendment, or apparently any human rights. He may not have been the mastermind of the full-spectrum dominance that has resulted in potentially millions of lives lost in the middle east (and counting)…but they couldn’t have asked for a better bumbling pitch-man to sign the papers, call the shots, and get up to say “aw shucks” when no WMDs were found in Iraq.

    • beth. says:

      Let me respectfully disagree with your rankings, JHypers. Our values appear to be vastly different on many issues. beth.

      • JHypers says:

        Are you in disagreement with the actual rankings, how I determined them, or both?

        • beth. says:

          You explained ‘how’ you came to your rankings, JHypers; how (by what criteria) you had evaluated each person on the list. From your explanations, from the evaluations you made and the criteria you used to make those evaluations, I concluded our values –yours and mine– are vastly different. Consequently, I, obviously, respectfully must disagree with your rankings. beth.

  2. Tallimat says:

    Very cool …

    My sister teaches 3 rd graders.
    She has done something similar with cartoon characters. She does this a break from routine of everyday learning. Doing such still creates a critical thinking mode. Very effective.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    As incredible as it may seem,I-mike from iowa-have discovered the source of rwnj ‘thinking” problems. They get their brains from British laboratories that grow them. They are equal to the brain in a nine week old foetus and are incapable of thought. Sound familiar?

  4. beth. says:

    I do wish such lists –and exercises– were given to all students, not just the ‘elite’ amongst them. It always amazes me what we can find out about these kids (and our future) if we’d simply ask, but I think we too often don’t bother (or even think!) to ask the ‘others’ what their opinion is on weighty matters. Or on any matters, for that matter. And that’s a damn shame because, ultimately, it is their judgment and opinion that’ll be the driving force of our tomorrows. If we don’t teach them — with even more fervor and urgency than we do our ‘smart’ kids — how to discover and soberly evaluate information, and most crucially, to THINK!, we’re all gonna be up the proverbial creek. Without a paddle. Too and also. beth.

  5. fishingmamma says:

    I was initially disturbed by the ranking of Sandra Day O’Connor. I have always admired her, even though I seldom agreed with her. It could not have been easy to take the job of “first Woman Supreme Court Justice”, because she was not just a Justice, she was a first, and open to more scrutiny.

    Then I realize we are talking about the opinions of a generation for whom Roe v. Wade is ancient history, the Women’s Movement is no longer about gaining womens’ right to hold credit without a husband’s signature. I remember a dress code in public school that did not allow girls to wear pants.

    These kids take things for granted that we had to fight for, and we are still looking over our shoulders. Their perspective is so differant. This is the kind of task that reveals a lot about these kids, sure, but it allows us, more importantly, to see through their eyes.

  6. Alaska Pi says:

    I’m with TCW- the young people did good.
    Would love to have been able to listen to /watch the whole class final ranking exercise.
    I’m with WC. Good on the teacher too. Young people need lots of practice with developing criteria for judgment and the like.
    Did have to wonder if “never heard of ’em” actually did play into decisions here, honesty, wisdom, and credibility aside.

    To me , the list itself was odd and I’m not/never have been comfortable with linear ranking. I see 1 first place, 3 2nd places, 1 third place, and a buncha I-don’t-cares – all those being rankings relative to this particular list as opposed to general ideals of wisdom, honesty, credibility.

  7. That’s a pretty cool assignment. The execution may not be what you’d hope for, but it forced the kids to think critically. Very serious props to the teacher.

  8. DaveO says:

    Disappointing but really no worse than many adults who consider themselves informed.
    We’re still on the road to Perdition and it appears we’ll make the station on time vis a vis these results.

    • thatcrowwoman says:

      Buck up, buttercup. No need for disappointment. The station is still a ways on down Perdition Road.

      These are 16-year-olds and they are learning.
      They are also learning how to learn.
      These teenagers are becoming young adults,
      and like the teenagers here on the lower right,
      they are on the Road to Find Out.

      Trust me, they’ll pull their own weight…
      and then some.

      • DaveO says:

        My doubt lies not in their ability nor inability to discern from the choices offered here.
        Nooo, not that.
        Only in the false parameters under which they labor in expecting old and used (proven lacking or outright false) paradigms/personalities from which their knowledge is expected to originate, blossom and eventually roost upon; from which and from whom (the contemporary hacks presented) to choose and proclaim knowledge’s thirst satisfied but from only the incipient and narrow human benchmarks presented.
        Celebrity worship most inane.
        Not good enough when it comes to keeping this planet habitable.

        • thatcrowwoman says:

          You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, Dave, but I think you’re making a mountain from molehill, a journey from the first few steps.
          *picturing Eeyore, with whom I am very well-acquainted*

          What would you do differently with these students, Dave?
          I’m serious. What do you think those of us in public education should do?
          You see knowledge’s thirst satisfied? I don’t see it.
          These young people don’t just gargle at the fountain of knowledge, Dave,
          they’ll drink as deeply as we expect and encourage them to drink.

          As for me and mine, and ALL children are my children,
          we know how important good hydration is,
          and we watch out for one another on our long and winding journey.
          We’ll pass on the Road to Perdition,
          but there is always room for one more on the Road to Find Out.
          The more the merrier, eh?

          L’Shalom, and I’m off to our library,
          my traveler’s inn on The Road to Find Out.
          There is Always room for one more.

  9. Beaglemom says:

    My biggest beef with Sandra Day O’Connor is that, as she said herself, she voted with the majority to allow George W. Bush to become president even though she thought it was wrong to do so. My second big beef with her is that she quit the Supreme Court, knowing that an even more conservative person would replace her.

    • Gramiam44 says:

      Sandra Day O’Connor quit the Court to stay at home and provide care for her husband, who suffered from Alzeimer’s. I can’t fault her for that and neither should anybody else!

      • mike from iowa says:

        If Gore was handed the presidency.O’Connor would not have retired. She said as much. She had a clear conflict of interest in appointing dubya as Potus.

  10. mike from iowa says:

    MLK and TJ tied for first. Lady Gaga cuz I seen her naked doing aerobics(or something) at about 6th place. Martha Stewart at seven because she was jailed for doing what countless others,including dumbass dubya and congress,do on a daily basis with impunity.Bill Gates is next. Then HRC. And last and certainly least,all the rest so far down the charts they will never be heard from again.

  11. puffin shrapnel palin says:

    Even in high school, I wouldn’t have ranked George W. Bush above Sandra Day O’Connor, but overall, I think the kids did okay.

  12. Ivan says:

    i am not thrilled that advanced placement students would be so politically umm un-advanced.

    i would rather have a worked up Weiner
    than a gestapo stop and frisk everyone Bloomburg

    • Happy Place says:

      Between the two of them, Jefferson kind of reflect the genius of our nation. Those kids could have done much, much worse.

    • thatcrowwoman says:

      Remember, Ivan, that it IS the beginning of the school year. Teachers are getting to know their new students (and vice versa). These “informal assessments” help us gauge our students’ “background knowledge” so we can tailor our instruction to fill in the gaps.

      Group activities are effective ice-breakers, also, too, and help build the classroom community. Defending choices with reason, working with a group, coming to consensus without coming to blows, those are valuable real-life lessons, eh?

      I’m predicting that this class is in for an interesting year.
      They’ll learn all kinds of things
      and I’m thinking they’ll have fun while they’re at it.

      • mike from iowa says:

        So what’s the criteria for explaining the prescence of nutjobs? Color mikey curious.

        • thatcrowwoman says:

          Well, mikey, Grandma Shorty, of blessed memory, would say there’s one in every bunch.
          Now think about how many bunches there be in this big old world…1+1+1+1+…….

          But seriously?
          For some folks, mental illness is real, eh? Too many lost souls slip through the so-called safety net instead of getting services/treatment they need, wandering in the valley of the shadow…

          And then, some folks just make bad choices.
          $uch folkkk$ say, “I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t.”

          Order in the Court!

          that’s my 2 cents

      • EastBayGranny says:

        Thank you, thatcrowwoman – very well said. All these adults that are so critical of high-school kids based on THEIR OWN knowledge and perceptions – I wonder how politically savvy they were at the same age? JFK had just become President as I was graduating high school, and the Cuban missile crisis occurred during my first semester at college. That, of course, was followed closely by JFK’s assassination – very scary stuff for a pretty sheltered, naive teen-age girl! THAT was my intro to politics, not anything that happened during my high school years. I expect the exercise described in this article required the kids to do some research – they wouldn’t necessarily know all the “players” to begin with. So what was written about some of the subjects, and how that writing might have been slanted, would have a large effect on the conclusions they reached. I love this teacher’s approach – I just wish I had had ANY teacher half so creative – ever.

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