The Indiana University press breathlessly proclaimed it as a cause for campus pride:
An Indiana University honors student fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on the iconic television game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Julian Batts, a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, will appear on the show Friday, April 11, as part of its annual “College Week.” “I’ve watched it as long as I can remember,” he said of the game show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years. “I have always had that desire to be on the show and solve puzzles in front of a live audience.”
Batts traveled to Culver City, Calif., and taped the episode in February. Students from Indiana State and Purdue universities also were selected to participate in “College Week” matches. The Carmel High School graduate is majoring in business and Spanish. He is actively involved at Rose Avenue Residence Hall and as an usher at the IU Auditorium. He participated in IU’s Intensive Freshman Seminar program and the IU Beginnings program, which introduces a small group of students to recruiters from top companies that partner with the Kelley School of Business. He also is the third generation of his family to attend IU, and both of his parents earned IU degrees.
“This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Julian, and we’re happy that he has had this experience to add to the many wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed as an IU student,” said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School.
…On April 11, he looks forward to getting together with friends so they can see how well he did. “Regardless of whatever is aired on TV, I am glad I did it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an experience I will never forget,” he said. A viewing party for Batts will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Room 150 of the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus.
Do make a mental note of the last part. Even after the taping, Julian was proud of his performance, and was thrilled about a viewing party. This glowing story was written after the following fiasco occurred.
The show aired yesterday. With a chance at a million dollar prize, Julian guessed every letter of a puzzle and only had to read it to win. What he saw was this:
He read the name of the “mythical character” as “A-CHill-Us. Obviously, this Hudson and Holland Scholar, Herbert Presidential Scholar and Hutton Honors College student has never encountered, in his high school, reading, discussions with his college-educated parents and fellow students, in his classes or by casually stopping at the History Channel, Homer, the Iliad, the story of the Trojan Horse, the cultural allusion of an “Achilles heel,” or many key components of what we laughingly refer to as basic cultural literacy.
Later, Julian had another chance to win if he could puzzle out this board:
He was told, as you can see, that the answer was a person. Julian guessed that one of the missing letters was “c.” Cat? Cad? OK, he was flustered. Maybe he was thinking about the “car” that would have been the prize, and that thought blew the right answer, and obvious one, out one ear. Still, it was embarrassing. Or should have been.
Some questions, rhetorical among them, raised by this tragic episode:
- Why would anyone hire someone like this, after this display of ignorance and pathetic reasoning abilities?
- Why are college degrees considered any kind of prerequisite for a job, if someone like Julian can graduate with such inadequate knowledge and skills?
- What do they teach in college? What do they teach in high school? What is regarded as an “education’ these days? The character of Achilles is a basic cultural point of reference; if one has never encountered his name to the extent that it is recognizable in print, then it is likely that the other basic knowledge and information missing is massive. I read about Achilles when I was nine. There are about six movies in which he is a character, the latest with him being portrayed by Brad Pitt. If you go through life with your eyes and ears open and the intellectual curiosity of a sea sponge, you should know who Achilles is.
- At what point do we hold parents and teachers accountable for not teaching, and allowing children to grow up more ignorant than the graduates of one-room school houses on the prairie in the 19th Century?
- What are all those scholarships and awards for that Julian won? What do they signify? If someone can be designated a “scholar” without knowing one of the major figures in Western literature, what does being a scholar mean now?
- Isn’t this fraud on potential employers? Julian will have all these credentials, and yet he has gaps in his knowledge base that you can run a truck through, and apparently lacks problem solving skills that we should expect, but obviously can’t, to be possessed by the average fourth grader.
- Why wasn’t Julian embarrassed? This is the really scary part of the story. He doesn’t even recognize what was wrong with his performance! He really thinks he’s educated, and ready to make his way in the world. If he was embarrassed, he might have the intellectual curiosity and pride to detect some urgency in learning what he doesn’t know, but he’s not. I bet he still can’t tell you who “A-CHill-US” is.
- Isn’t this an unconscionable fraud on students? Isn’t it cruel to tell young men and women that they are educated, smart and remarkable when they are in fact ignorant, deluded, and cognitively deficient?
On the Blaze, Glenn Beck’s new aggregating commentary site, the comment thread immediately degenerated into attacks on affirmative action and outright racism, for Julian is black.
First: this doesn’t speak well of Glenn Beck’s readership.
Second: it is unfair and unjust: if a critical mass of Julian’s colleagues and classmates in high school and college knew who Achilles was, so would he. This has nothing to do with race.All of our college students, of all races, are being cheated and deceived.
Third: The fact that affirmative action is the immediate reflex reaction of people like these commenters demonstrates how such a policy will always be racially divisive, and that the sooner it goes, the better.
Fourth: conservatives who smugly argue that racism in America is a myth—you know, like Achilles—should read threads like this.
Fifth: So should progressives and Democrats, because their racially divisive rhetoric has helped exacerbate the problem.