Thursday, February 28, 2008

7 Abandoned Wonders of the European Union: From Deserted Castles Retrofuturistic Factories

Seven Abandoned Wonders of the European Union

The European Union may appear on the surface to be a unified body but underneath each member country retains a unique and complex history. The rich stories of individual European nations can be read in part through the amazing abandoned buildings found across the continent. It is truly remarkable how intact some of these structures are even after centuries. From Finland to France, Belgium to Denmark and Poland to England here are seven amazing abandonments from all over Europe.

Berlin Germany Historical Abandoned Military Hospital

Berlin Germany Hospital Abandonment Urban Exploration

Berlin, Germany has been at the center of European history in many regards, most recently as the divided core of Germany before East and West reunification. This abandoned complex located in Beelitz (just outside of Berlin) dates back to the 19th century and was used by the Germans as a military hospital through the second World War. From the 1940s on it was continuously occupied and used as a military hospital by the Russians complete with a surgery, psychiatric ward and rifle range before being abandoned in the 1990s. During its years of operation, famous (or infamous) patients included Adolf Hitler and former East German leader Erich Honecker.

Belgium Historical Abandoned Castle Photographs

Belgium Abandoned Castle Urban Exploration

Mesen, Belgium is the smallest town in Belgium with fewer than 1,000 residents. However, it is the home of one of the most beautiful abandoned castles one could imagine, built, rebuilt, modified and expanded from the 1500s onward. This gorgeous structure evolved from a defensive fortress to a boarding school over time before being abandoned in the middle of the 20th century. It has has decayed by natural means with very little outside interference or vandalism and conjures picturesque images of beautiful deserted buildings. Nonetheless, it is under threat of destruction. It seems that only in Europe, where such buildings are more abundant, could such a lovely structure be considered common enough to not necessarily warrant rehabilitation.

Denmark Abandoned Refrigeration Factory Building

Copenhagen Denmark Factory Building Infiltration Images

Copenhagen, Denmark has developed a rich tradition of industrial production in part due to its geography. Flanked on virtually all sides by water, it is no wonder this country has spawned many facilities like the refrigeration factory featured above. These pictures show the internal story of desertion, fire and other internal tales as well as the future plans for redevelopment on the site. Adjacent condos (shown in the last image) represent the likely direction of this abandoned property as waterfront real estate continues to replace old industrial uses.

England Abandoned Victorian Factory Building

England Abandoned Structure Urban Exploration

Ryhope, England is home to an abandoned water pumping station that almost seems like a retrofuturistic structure straight out of a cyberpunk novel. This deserted structure is a monument to the Victorian era of industrialization, dating back to the middle of the 19th Century. It was an important step in the modernization of clean water distribution in an era where urban densification and disease went hand in hand. Though the station is no longer in active use all of the machinery still works, a true testament to the capabilities of Victorian English engineers.

Finland Abandoned Matchstick Factory Building

Finland Factory Urban Exploration Images

Tempere, Finland is one of many places that saw considerable growth and prosperity during the industrial revolution. With a thriving Finnish timber industry came the matchstick factory featured above. Built between world wars, the factory was in continuous use until the mid-1970s at which point it switched industries with the times, become (among other things) an automobile plant for a period of time. Since being entirely abandoned the main building and surrounding structures have become hangouts for local teens as evidenced in the images above.

Warsaw Poland Abandoned Lightbulb Factory Building

Warsaw Poland Urban Abandonments Photography

Warsaw, Poland has had a long and trying history of war and strife. It is perhaps no wonder that even in the heart of a relatively prosperous Polish city one can still find a vast abandoned factory complex. This series of deserted structures began as an electric lamp production facility in the 1920s before being converted to construct radios for submarines by the Germans during World War II. It reverted to its old function after the war but was poorly managed and eventually abandoned altogether, with remnant containers of chemicals and other assorted scientific equipment left behind as a testament to its earlier uses.

Paris France Abandoned Metro Subway Stations

Paris, France is notorious of late-running Metro trains due to frequent worker strikes - but perhaps less well known for its numerous abandoned Metro stations. Urban explorers manage to find their ways into some of these abandoned subway tunnels while others have been converted to new uses including (appropriately enough) official homeless shelters. Some of the tunnels can even be visited privately late at night in groups led by sanctioned rail-expert tour guides.

Original here

An inconvenient truth -- kids aren't perfect

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Often in the course of family life, a parent must face inconvenient or downright disturbing truths about children that fly in the face of what we believe about our influence as parents and human nature itself.

Before becoming a parent, for instance, I genuinely believed I could convince my offspring that Barney the Dinosaur is in fact evil and does not actually love them.

I was also convinced that my children would be the first toddlers in history to possess, thanks to their kindly father, impeccable table manners and a keen appreciation of historical documentaries, late-90s acoustic mope rock and Alaskan scenery.

On all these counts, I was forced to face facts. News flash: kids love Barney, do not generally appreciate the genius of Ken Burns or Elliot Smith and will never, ever, even if you shell out many thousands of dollars on a pleasure cruise of Glacier Bay, give a damn about the majesty of the wild when there's a buffet table piled with cookies behind them.

Still, hope dies hard. Throughout my first years of fatherhood, I clung to some ridiculously starry-eyed and politically correct notions about children.

I believed they are born virtuous and free-thinking, that meanness, superficiality and arbitrary gender norms are learned via reality TV and unlicensed child care providers.

Left to their own devices, I imagined children would establish a just, happy society filled with toys and cake.


I managed to maintain this cheery outlook despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Qualities I'd assumed would come naturally to my kids -- fairness, patience, civility - seemed entirely absent in my young charges. Often, they could be just plain mean.

My three-year-old son, for instance, appeared to enjoy nothing more than batting his infant sister on the head with a Lincoln Log.

Even as I disciplined him, I found a way to justify - or at least reconcile - the occasional outburst of savagery. He was, I mused, simply expressing the innate impulses of his primate forefathers.

Which also helped explain the kids' stubborn refusal to conform to the carefully constructed gender-neutral world my wife and I had assembled for them, painting their nursery a neutral shade of avocado and providing each with unisex playthings.

We cringed when a relative, usually a grandparent, did something so gauche as give our daughter a baby doll or our son a toy steam locomotive.

But wouldn't you know it: our firstborn son came out of the womb crazy for trains and our daughter instantly gravitated to ballerinas and princesses and to this day gripes about putting on any garment that isn't sufficiently pink and sparkly.

One militantly gender-neutral friend who had withheld dolls from her daughter says she once walked in on her daughter cooing to a toy truck she'd swaddled in a pink blankie.

OK, so children are born barbarians, boys like boy stuff and girls often fall prey to the tyranny of pink.

But none of that quite compared to the hard lesson in human nature I learned from the hot babysitter.

Allow me to explain. A few years ago my wife and I took the kids for a weekend to a fancy hotel. We planned to have a grown-up dinner and arranged a babysitter look after the kids.

When informed of our plans, the kids expressed terror at the prospect of spending the entire evening with a stranger; they whined and worried the entire day. Then the door opened and in stepped a 19-year-old yoga instructor with impossibly long limbs and the bone structure of Sophia Loren in "The Black Orchid."

Both kids latched on to the sitter's pantleg and looked up at her adoringly. For the two of us, they had just one word: "Bye!"

All their fears and insecurities had evaporated in an instant. I've since heard similar stories from other parents - even naturally nervous and clingy kids, it seems, often display an eerily natural level of comfort and security when left with comely caretakers.

None of this should be so surprising. Scientists have proven that aesthetics are hard-wired into the brain, that even infants stare longer at pictures of lovelier faces, that otherwise unconditionally loving parents lavish more attention and praise on prettier kids than goony ones.

In other words, kids are just as superficial and shallow as we adults are. Hard lesson in human nature indeed.

(Christopher Noxon is a freelance writer. Any opinion in the column are solely those of Mr. Noxon. You can e-mail him at

Original here

Souped-Up Contact Lenses Promise On-Demand Bionic Eyesight

An inventor at the University of Washington holds a flexible contact lens embedded with microcircuits. Researchers will place circuitry outside of the transparent part of the wearer’s eye. The lens will not obstruct a user’s sight when it isn’t activated.

Most advances in retinal implants concentrate on restoring, not enhancing, sight. But there’s hope yet for superhuman vision, and without surgery: A team at the University of Washington has created a contact lens assembled with functional circuitry and LEDs.

Potential uses include virtual displays for pilots, video-game projections and telescopic vision for soldiers. A working prototype of a lens-embedded antenna that draws power for the device from radio frequencies has also been created. The next steps are to build a version that can display several pixels—and then to test it on a person.

The UW team uses a technique called self-assembly to manufacture the eyewear. Researchers dust a specially designed contact lens with microscale components that automatically bond to predetermined receptor sites. The shape of each component dictates where it attaches.

“There’s a lot of room to expand,” Babak Parviz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UW, says of the technology. “You can let your imagination run wild.”

Original here

Exotic Foods of the Worldly Traveler

Part of traveling is sampling the local fare. Now many of these delicacies can be ordered online. So my question is: without a few tequilas and the feeling of exploration, will we order these things online and try them at home? Will our cornflakes taste better with a few crickets? Will your sweetheart believe lizard wine will liven up your love life? You be the judge. Here are my favorite exotic edibles available for purchase.

The Giant Japanese Hornet is the largest species of wasp in the world and it contains special enzymes in its body which are reputed to increase strength and energy levels. It supposedly has a “pick me up” effect.

The scorpion is first put through a special detoxifying process and then infused in the vodka for three months before hitting the shelves. The scorpion imparts a pleasant, soft woody taste to the vodka; it also effectively smoothes the sharp edge of the vodka. Alcohol infused with a scorpion is said to possess many excellent health properties. It helps increase libido, lowers blood pressure, and helps remove toxins in the bloodstream. Best served cold.

This brandy-like liquor is produced by steeping rice wine in a clay vat full of Tokay Gecko Lizards and ginseng. After a twelve-month fermentation process has taken place, the liquor is then strained, resulting in this green-colored drink. Consumption of Lizard Wine is said to ward off evil and improve vision!

For those that like their coffee better the second time around, I give you the Civet Coffee. The Common Palm Civet Cat (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditis) prowls the Sumatran coffee plantations at night, choosing to eat only the finest, ripest cherries. The stones (which eventually form coffee beans) are then collected by cleaning through the droppings by the natives who collect it. This has to be among the weirdest jobs in the world.

I guess if coffee from the bowels of a Civet is too much, you could try Weasel Coffee. This coffee is first eaten by weasels and then regurgitated—no one knows why they do this, but it is collected by locals in remote forest areas who then clean and roast it. The coffee has a unique, rich chocolaty flavor and is best served as an espresso with a dash of condensed milk, just as they do in Vietnam.

Pearl Lollipops are made from raw cane sugar, wild Madagascan vanilla essence, and ground natural pearls. Since ancient times in China and Japan, pearls have been used in child-bearing rituals and foods were often decorated with tiny pearls, which were to be eaten in order to secure a pregnancy prior to sex. Caution: do not eat if allergic to shellfish.

Supposedly these baked worms taste similar to popcorn. Make sure you buy the ones raised for human consumption. I guess what I’m saying is no freelancing cooking up the ones in the backyard.

And lastly, for the faint of heart, how about a lollipop with a few ants? I’m pretty sure I could achieve this by leaving a previously licked one on a counter at home.

This one is a peppermint-flavored lollipop that contains real farm-raised ants. The ants are specially bred Polyrachis Black Ants and they have a spicy, peppery taste similar to chili peppers. Ants are said to be good for giving you an energy boost, and the peppermint is great for freshening your breath

So if you are thinking about trying these items yourself, I found most of them (and more) for purchase at Please let me know if you try any of them. I think I could pull off the liquor and the lollipops; I’m not sure about the rest.

Original here

12 Practical Steps for Learning to Go With the Flow

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” - Lao-Tzu

No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there will always be things that we cannot control — and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, frustration and stress.

The simple solution: learn to go with the flow.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

For example, let’s say you’ve created the perfect peaceful morning routine. You’ve structured your mornings so that you do things that bring you calm and happiness. And then a water pipe bursts in your bathroom and you spend a stressful morning trying to clean up the mess and get the pipe fixed.

You get angry. You are disappointed, because you didn’t get to do your morning routine. You are stressed from all these changes to what you’re used to. It ruins your day because you are frustrated for the rest of the day.

Not the best way to handle things, is it? And yet if we are honest, most of us have problems like this, with things that disrupt how we like things, with people who change what we are used to, with life when it doesn’t go the way we want it to go.

Go with the flow.

What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.

“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” - Chuang Tzu

A reader recently asked me to write more about going with the flow, so this is my attempt to share some of the things that work for me. As always, I don’t have any claims to perfection, and I’m learning as I improve, but the tips below should help anyone.

  1. Realize that you can’t control everything. I think we all know this at some level, but the way we think and act and feel many times contradicts this basic truth. We don’t control the universe, and yet we seem to wish we could. All the wishful thinking won’t make it so. You can’t even control everything within your own little sphere of influence — you can influence things, but many things are simply out of your control. In the example above, you can control your morning routine, but there will be things that happen from time to time (someone’s sick, accident happens, phone call comes at 5 a.m. that disrupts things, etc.) that will make you break your routine. First step is realizing that these things will happen. Not might happen, but will. There are things that we cannot control that will affect every aspect of our lives, and we must must must accept that, or we will constantly be frustrated. Meditate on this for awhile.
  2. Become aware. I’ve mentioned this step in previous articles on other topics, but that’s because it’s extremely important. You can’t change things in your head if you’re not aware of them. You have to become an observer of your thoughts, a self-examiner. Be aware that you’re becoming upset, so that you can do something about it. It helps to keep tally marks in a little notebook for a week — every time you get upset, put a little tally. That’s all — just keep tally. And soon, because of that little act, you will become more aware of your anger and frustration.
  3. Breathe. When you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a deep breath. Take a few. This is an important step that allows you to calm down and do the rest of the things on this list. Practice this by itself and you’ll have come a long way already.
  4. Get perspective. This always helps me. I get angry over something happening — my car breaks down, my kids ruin my microwave — and then I take a deep breath, and take a step back. You know how you’re watching a movie and the camera zooms away and you can see much more of the world on the screen than you could before? How it goes from closeup to a larger, panoramic view of things? That’s what happens in my mind’s eye. I start to zoom away, until I’m pretty far away from things. Then whatever happened doesn’t seem so important. A week from now, a year from now, this little incident won’t matter a single whit. No one will care, not even you. So why get upset about it? Just let it go, and soon it won’t be a big deal.
  5. Practice. It’s important to realize that, just like when you learn any skill, you probably won’t be good at this at first. Who is good when they are first learning to write, or read, or drive? No one I know. Skills come with practice. So when you first learn to go with the flow, you will mess up. You will stumble and fall. That’s OK — it’s part of the process. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it. Someday, you may even become a Zen Master and write a guest post on what you’ve learned for Zen Habits. :)
  6. Baby steps. Along the same lines, take things in small steps. Don’t try to become that Zen Master mentioned above overnight. Don’t try to bite off huge chunks — just bite off something small at first. So make your first attempts to go with the flow small ones: focus on the tally marks (mentioned above) first. Then focus on breathing. Then try to get perspective after you breathe. And you might try the easier situations first — if your work problems are easier to accept than your frustrations with your kids, for example, start with work.
  7. Laugh. It helps me to see things as funny, rather than frustrating. Car broke down in the middle of traffic and I have no cell phone or spare tire? Laugh at my own incompetence. Laugh at the absurdity of the situation. That requires a certain amount of detachment — you can laugh at the situation if you’re above it, but not within it. And that detachment is a good thing. If you can learn to laugh at things, you’ve come a long way. Try laughing even if you don’t think it’s funny — it will most likely become funny.
  8. Keep a journal. This is one of the best uses of a journal actually. Once a day, try to recall what all your tally marks were for — and then write about those situations. Why did you get upset? What did you try to do? Did it work, and if not, why not? What can you do next time? This kind of recollection and examination, after the fact, will help you learn from the process.
  9. Meditate. If you aren’t good at keeping a journal, at least do a daily review in your head. Do some meditation, or have a bath, or a cup of hot tea, and as you’re de-stressing, go over your day and examine it. Don’t get frustrated — you’re learning. Do some deep breathing, and then go over each situation, trying to see it as a detached observer. This kind of review will help you improve in the learning process.
  10. Realize that you can’t control others. Ah, one of the biggest challenges. We get frustrated with other people, because they don’t act the way we want them to act. Maybe it’s our kids, maybe it’s our spouse or significant other, maybe it’s our coworker or boss, maybe it’s our mom or best friend. But we have to realize that they are acting according to their personality, according to what they feel is right, and they are not going to do what we want all of the time. And we have to accept that. Accept that we can’t control them, accept them for who they are, accept the things they do. It’s not easy, but again, it takes practice.
  11. Accept change and imperfection. When we get things the way we like them, we usually don’t want them to change. But they will change. It’s a fact of life. We cannot keep things the way we want them to be … instead, it’s better to learn to accept things as they are. Accept that the world is constantly changing, and we are a part of that change. Also, instead of wanting things to be “perfect” (and what is perfect anyway?), we should accept that they will never be perfect, and we must accept good instead.
  12. Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty. Remember when I asked what “perfect” is, in the paragraph above? It’s actually a very interesting question. Does perfect mean the ideal life and world that we have in our heads? Do we have an ideal that we try to make the world conform to? Because that will likely never happen. Instead, try seeing the world as perfect the way it is. It’s messy, chaotic, painful, sad, dirty … and completely perfect. The world is beautiful, just as it is. Life is not something static, but a flow of change, never staying the same, always getting messier and more chaotic, always beautiful. There is beauty in everything around us, if we look at it as perfect.

“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.” - Bob Dylan

Original here

The Art Of Flirting (And How To Do It)

Image by maveric2003 *Image changed because she DID look like a 10 year-old girl!

A lot of men struggle with the basic concept of flirting. I’ve seen it myself with friends looking to hook up with a girl in a bar who tried everything in their tired and clichéd arsenal of pick up lines. Believe it or not, the following quote is not going to help you get the girl:

My love for you is like diarrhea, I just can’t hold it in.

Source: CO-ED Magazine

The main problem guys have with flirting is that they relate it directly to sex. If I flirt with the girl for long enough, she’s more likely to have sex with me. Women, on the other hand, view flirting as nothing more than some harmless fun with no determined end-game.

The differences between male and female flirting

if we were in a cave, the man would fling the woman over his shoulder and stomp away.

Dutch-born psychoanalyst Manfred Kets de Vries blames the male super-ego. “A man behaving selfishly will ignore the implicit conduct of flirting in the blatant pursuit of sex.” He’s basically saying that if we were in a cave, the man would fling the woman over his shoulder and stomp away.

As far as human behaviours are concerned, flirting is the one that confuses us most. According to evolutionary psychologists flirting is man’s way of engaging pleasurably with a member of the opposite sex, with the ultimate goal of reproduction. Now call me crazy, but most men looking to pick up a girl are not thinking about having children with the woman! Regardless, women view flirting as a way of checking out the merchandise without compromising their virtue. So women use flirting to get attention, and men use it to initiate sex - but how do you untangle this web of crossed wires?

The key to flirting successfully

You’d think that common sense might help you to flirt more successfully, but you’d be wrong. And here’s why. Dr Antonio Darmasio, MD and head of neurology at the University of Iowa, claims that the reason it all goes wrong is because the process of flirting actually mimics brain damage. “The limbic system, responding to a cue that says ‘this person is attractive’, overrides the neo-cortex. Therefore, for a brief moment, we are completely out of control.” Now this quote won’t hold up in court should you ever get too out of control with a girl but it does explain why we struggle to flirt.

Understanding the brain’s response to flirting should help us to engage with women on their level, rather than as a covert operation to get naked with her! Here are some ideas for flirting successfully without coming across like a sex-crazed lunatic:

  • Keep contact to a minimum. Nothing is more powerful in the flirting world than well-timed and placed body contact. Touching a woman should be the same as using your Diesel Fuel For Life aftershave. Use With Caution! If you overdo it, you’ll appear overbearing and creepy. The best times to engage physical contact are when you’re standing together or when putting her coat on. When standing together you can lean in close and place your hand on the small of hear back, as if you were telling her a secret. Putting her coat on at the end of the evening allows you to lift her hair up over the back of her coat. Very subtle and sensual but she will notice.
  • Avoid over-confidence. If you’ve got all the right words and know exactly what to say to get her interested in you, there is a danger that she’ll take you as one of those slippery guys who have played women one too many times. She’ll be imagining you as the guy who flirts for sport and prefers the thrill of the chase to the catch. I’ve known a few of these cads myself and although he was successful with the women, it never amounted to more than a one night stand. That’s not being a man at all.
  • Don’t play it too cool. Some guys prefer to take the ‘mysterious and cool’ approach by appearing dark and brooding from afar. This is all well and good but be aware than you have a limited window of opportunity to talk to her before you turn into the weird stalker who won’t stop looking at her. Another downside to this method is the tendency to sit and watch as other guys attempt to talk to the object of your affection. Don’t sit and sulk in the corner giving the death stare to any man who dares talk to your woman. You’ll come across as jealous and lacking in self confidence. Both unbecoming character traits. Instead, enjoy your evening and when she is available, just head over and talk to her. It’s really not rocket science!
  • Don’t flirt with every girl in the bar. Women talk. With their friends and with strangers at the bar or in the toilet. Find a girl you’re interested in and focus on her. If it doesn’t work out then you might need to move on to the next place to find somebody else. Women will be extremely wary of a man who she has seen talking to other women in the club. You may be a masterful flirt, but you’re seeking an audience and in the end you’re only amusing yourself and are not really that interested in any of the women. They’ll pick up on it and before you know it you’ll be known as the annoying guy who sends dirty text messages an hour after meeting someone in a bar.
  • Technology and it’s impact on flirting

    Technology has added an entirely new dimension to the flirting game. You can now use text, e-mail and instant messenger to flirt, but you find yourself trying to become a wordsmith to formulate the perfect combination of words. It’s now a digital minefield as well. However, I think that if used correctly, communicating in this way can help you to become more successful. Here’s why:

    • You have time to think about your message. Rather than being put on the spot in a face-to-face setting, you have time to put together a message or a reply without having to do it immediately. This removes the pressure and allows you to flirt more effectively.
    • You can be more open via text. Things you would never dare to say in person can now be said through a message. The beauty of this is that if she takes it the wrong way you can say it was a joke but the message didn’t convey the sarcastic tone intended (yes, I have used that before to get out of an inappropriate text) or you can be a little unscrupulous and just never speak to her again.
    • What you say in text messages often becomes what you say in real life. Back in the single days I was a bit of a master at the whole text flirting game, regularly with 4 or 5 women texting me at any given time. As my confidence grew, I found there was a great deal of transference from my text game to my face-to-face game. I was more open, more outrageous and more confident and the end result was that approaching women was easier and more successful than ever before.
    • Now, obviously I’m not a psychologist or psychoanalyst but I am a self-taught flirt with a lot of experience and a lot of success. My final advice to you is to flirt wherever you can. Build up your confidence talking to waitresses, barmaids, checkout girls, or even your friends mother! There’s no harm in flirting and it will boost your confidence so that when you meet someone you really like, you know what to do.

      If you’ve had some great flirting experiences or know a method that’s worked wonders for you in the past, then let us know in the comments.

      Original here

Survey Finds Teenagers Ignorant on Basic History and Literature Questions

Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature, said the group that commissioned it, Common Core.

The organization describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the liberal arts in public schools.

The group says President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind, has impoverished public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics, but in no other subjects.

Politically, the group’s leaders are strange bedfellows. Its founding board includes Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is a powerful force in the Democratic Party, and Diane Ravitch, an education professor at New York University who was assistant education secretary under the first President George Bush.

Its executive director is Lynne Munson, former deputy chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former special assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne.

“We’re a truly diverse group,” Mrs. Munson said. “We almost certainly vote differently, and we have varying opinions about different aspects of educational reform. But when it comes to concern that all of America’s children receive a comprehensive liberal arts and science education, we all agree.”

In the survey, 1,200 17-year-olds were called in January and asked to answer 33 multiple-choice questions about history and literature that were read aloud to them. The questions were drawn from a test that the federal government administered in 1986.

About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German kaiser.

On literature, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of Ralph Ellison’s novel about a young man’s growing up in the South and moving to Harlem, “Invisible Man,” from a list of titles. About half knew that in the Bible Job is known for his patience in suffering. About as many said he was known for his skill as a builder, his prowess in battle or his prophetic abilities.

The history question that proved easiest asked the respondents to identify the man who declared, “I have a dream.” Ninety-seven percent correctly picked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 8 in 10, a higher percentage than on any other literature question, knew that Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about two children affected by the conflict in their community when their father defends a black man in court.

In a joint introduction to their report, Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch did not directly blame the No Child law for the dismal results but said it had led schools to focus too narrowly on reading and math, crowding time out of the school day for history, literature and other subjects.

“The nation’s education system has become obsessed with testing and basic skills because of the requirements of federal law, and that is not healthy,” Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch said.

“You can be supportive of N.C.L.B. and also support strengthening the teaching of history and literature,” a spokeswoman for the Education Department, Samara Yudof, said. “It’s good to talk about expanding the curriculum, but if you can’t read, you can’t read anything at all.”

A string of studies have documented the curriculum’s narrowing since Mr. Bush signed the law in January 2002.

Last week, the Center on Education Policy, a research group in Washington that has studied the law, estimated that based on its own survey 62 percent of school systems had added an average of three hours of math or reading instruction a week at the expense of time for social studies, art and other subjects.

The Bush administration and some business and civil rights groups warn against weakening the law, saying students need reading and math skills to succeed in other subjects.

Original here