Humans may have originated in Africa, but far too many people outside of the continent know very little about the Motherland.

Despite our world becoming increasingly global, some people still believe Africa is a country (it’s not), all of its people are poor (they aren’t), and it’s a region in constant distress (also, not true). While Africa–and many places around the world–still faces very serious issues, people aren’t learning about the continent.

Recently, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver released a special Back-to-School web video and delivered a spot-on rant about just how little American students learn about the world in schools.

Here’s what Oliver says about Africa and Asia:

“You will leave school knowing as much about those two continents as I know about actor Penn Badgley,” Oliver said. “You’ll know it’s something that exists in the world, but you won’t be able to give any facts about it other than the general shape.”

Sadly, for most Americans that’s super true.

What did you learn about Africa in school?

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  • Me

    That’s interesting. In my high school, we touched on Africa when we discussed hieroglyphics and compared the formation of civilizations across different cultures (development of cities, villages, etc), and a little more on empires and dynasties, but we never dove into social movements and we only touched the surface of political movements from other parts of the world (of course American schools focused on getting us to believe a democracy is the best type of government so all other forms were talked about just enough to denounce them). The end goal was always just to give us a clearly defined path to believing that America is, was, and is meant to be the superpower of the world. It’s nice that you learned about the Civil Rights Movement in school because a lot of black Americans first learned about apartheid on A Different World, myself included. And as much as you would think they teach about slavery here, I’d be hard pressed to find anybody that could name which European countries colonized which western and African countries. Just a few months ago I had a colleague ask me why Liberians have such Anglo sounding names for it to be an African country. America is one of the more narcissistic countries, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn less world history than others, but I know from friends living in Europe that other countries operate in the same way.