A news crew from Uzbekistan interviewed the CIRCLE staff earlier today. They were nothing like Balat from the “Ali G. Show.” For one thing, they only spoke Russian and had to use an interpreter. For another, they asked extremely serious and sober questions, like “What precentage of eligible voters are under 30?”
All interviews are one-sided affairs; and when everything has to be translated, you can’t make small talk or ask irrelevant questions. As I watched, I wondered: What is it like being in a car with four Uzbeks and a State Department handler, driving around suburban DC for an interview with people at some “Center for Information …”? Why do Uzbeks care about youth turnout in the US election? When we say that kids study “civic education” in American high schools, what scenes pop into their heads? What do they imagine goes on in a place like the University of Maryland? What are they going to say in Russian voiceover as they show my colleagues talking? Are they even paying attention?
In short, I found the news crew more interesting–but probably more mysterious–than they found us and our issue of American youth civic engagement.