Free Minds & Free Markets

This Sociology Professor Insists Australia Isn't a Country and Failed a Student For Saying Otherwise

"Australia is a continent; it is not a country."

KoalaPhoto by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0A 27-year-old stay-at-home mom taking an online sociology class was shocked to get a failing grade on her final project. She was even more shocked at why she failed: Her professor was convinced that Australia is not a country.

The project required the student, Ashley Arnold, to compare a social norm in America with one in a different country, according to BuzzFeed. Arnold chose Australia. Her instructor, an unidentified professor at Southern New Hampshire University, denied that this was a valid selection.

"Australia is a continent; it is not a country," the professor wrote in an email to Arnold. "That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly."

As most people who completed the fifth grade are no doubt aware, Australia is both a continent and a country. It says so on Australia's official website. If you Google "Australia is a..." the search engine's most popular autofill terms are "continent" and "country." (The third most popular, unfortunately, is "hoax.")

Arnold wrote back to her professor, sharing some of this evidence. Finally, she filed a complaint with the university. After initially doubling down, the professor eventually conceded the error. But then she warned the student, "Please make sure the date, the facts, and the information you provide in your report is about Australia the country and not Australia the continent." This remark does not inspire great confidence that she understands her mistake.

Arnold is only mildly better informed about Australia than her professor, according to BuzzFeed:

When asked why she thought her professor might have been confused, Arnold said her older age might have been a factor.

"When did Australia become a country? Maybe she thinks it's still part of England," she said.

After being told by BuzzFeed News that happened some 117 years ago, Arnold said, "Oh, she's not that old, so there's no excuse."

In a tweet sent this morning, Southern New Hampshire University apologized to both Ashley and the sovereign nation of Australia. The professor has been fired:

What's most notable about this incident isn't the professor's ignorance. It's that it took several rounds of emails and a formal complaint to force the professor to do the easiest thing in the world: Google it.

Photo Credit: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

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  • Brandybuck||

    Once again, am so glad I went to school back in the 80s and not today. Still had some dumb professors, of course, but the system didn't coddle them like fragile snowflakes when they fucked up.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Thanks for bringing us more news we can use, Robbo.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Sociology is not a valid subject.

  • Brandybuck||

    Sociology was probably one of the most stupid courses I ever had to take. And I started out as a psych major, so that's saying something.

  • Agammamon||

    I took a Sociology course waaay back in community college. Was told humans don't have instincts.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Her professor was convinced that Australia is not a country.

    There's a professor at a university in Toronto who will fail you if you say there are biological differences between men and women.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Solution: everybody go to class naked.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I support this idea.

  • Don't look at me.||

    It would be good for the students to have some skin in the game.

  • Microaggressor||

    You would see their true colors.

  • Rich||

    You would see that some students stand out when compared to their peers.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Someone would get penalized.

  • Eric Bana||

    All these comments are plays on words, right?

  • Citizen X - #6||


  • Don't look at me.||

    Just barely.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    All these comments are plays on words, right?

    Some are weaker than others. I'll let you figure out which.

  • SQRLSY One||

    The naked students would all be stand-up guys...

    And stand-up gals?!?!? WTF is a stand-up gal?!?!?

  • AlmightyJB||

    + THOs.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Anyone have a good pun for scrotum?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    If they did, they'd have wrote 'em.

  • Wizard4169||

    Anyone have a good pun for scrotum?

    This prof should get the sack.

    Or, maybe

    They'll have a passing grade in the bag.

  • RPGuy16||

    That's just nuts.

  • Johnimo||

    "Stand-up gals" are the ones with headlights on high beam.

  • Mark22||

    Others would get analized.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Being that it's Canada, that color would be blue.

  • Kivlor||

    That's different. Everyone knows that biology is a social construct. All of modern colonized science is bigotry against the marginalized. #ScienceMustFall


  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    To be fair, it's not like the professor's opinion is all that different from Shika's or the open-borders crowd.

  • EirkKengaard||

    Probably - arrogant ignorance . . . difficult to deal with!

  • Jerryskids||

    "Sociology professor". It's an online course, the teacher's a 10-year old with a PhD from The National University of Eastern Portabella.

  • Eric Bana||


  • Detroit Linguist||

    Actually Southern New Hampshire is almost entirely an online university. They advertise heavily on national TV (I see ads for them all the time) and I think of them as a little bit fishy (not quite University of Phoenix, or Western Governors, but close). So I'm not surprised.
    And I wonder at the use of 'professor' here. Probably not actually a 'professor'. Of course, I'm a little defensive, because I was a real one until I retired.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    "Linguist" isn't a real word. You just made that up, you cunning devil.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Linguists do exist, and I'm told that some of them are quite cunning.


  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Actually Southern New Hampshire is almost entirely an online university.

    *looks around 75-year old campus with 3,000 resident students and shrugs*

    The Matrix does great work. Take the blue pill.

    They advertise heavily on national TV (I see ads for them all the time)

    Heavens forfend!

    and I think of them as a little bit fishy (not quite University of Phoenix, or Western Governors, but close).

    Typical research university/teaching university bullshit pissing match. There is nothing "fishy" about the rigor of my courses or my scholarship, of which I'd happily compare to yours (adjusting for 20-30 years, old man :) ).

  • Agammamon||


  • Calidissident||

    HM, we've missed you over here.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Online universities are pretty useful and fantastic. I would prefer to go to one in person, but when one lives in Japan or works weird schedules it makes it difficult.

    Tons of legit schools offer classes from American University to UF to Washington State etc. They help busy people get credentials they might want to make more money, like an online masters or first/second bachelors.

  • GamerFromJump||

    A lot of schools are working to have all-online as an option. I did my Master's at USC and stepped foot there for the first time at graduation.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Australia is both a continent and a country.

    Actually, one could argue that both definitions-- country AND continent are arbitrary social constructs.

  • some guy||

    Australia is whatever you want it be, or nothing.

  • Don't look at me.||

    A hoax?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Australia is where all the bad stuff from evolution went to live in a trailer with a shotgun."

  • Shirley Knott||

    Oh, you've been there.

  • WoodChipperBob||

    Australia is nature's way of saying "Go away, humans!"

  • Citizen X - #6||

    For continents, at least, there's a fairly clear geographical basis for definition. With the exception of Europe, which is really just some peninsulas sticking off of Asia's ass.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What a little water down at the 'beach' is the 'end' of the land? I think not, you can continue walking out, unstopped until you walk out of the water again in Florida.

    The Zombies won't think much of your 'fairly clear geographical basis'.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Actually, there is a clear geological definition for continents, and it has to do with granite. Granite is lighter than basalt, which is what the oceanic crust is made of, and therefore "floats" on top.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Interesting bit of trivia-- The Seychelles fit the geological definition of continent. They're made partly of granite and have their own continental shelf separate from Africa.

  • brokencycle||

    Should give people who are considering that school pause.

  • Calidissident||

    Isn't SNHU where Heroic Mulatto teaches (or taught? I'm assuming he's still there)?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    That would explain his fondness for thiccness, for his favorite punishment for his students is death by SNHU SNHU.

  • FullHands||

    Licensed Teacher at work

  • silver.||

    It's been quite a touchy topic for the past two decades, and the trends are on the mend, but there's still data that suggests that "some who can't do, teach."

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||



  • Rich||

    "But first -- Chee Chee!"

  • Shirley Knott||

    I 'member!
    It was my first thought, too.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Oh, I see someone beat me to this joke. Oh, well.

    [kicks self for not scrolling aaaaaaaaallll the way down to the pits of hell]

    At least I added an extra angle to it.

  • silver.||

  • Tony||

    Have you ever seen Australia in real life? If so, how do you know the pilot wasn't lying about where you landed? Kangaroos and Nicole Kidman are obviously mediocre animatronics.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Whoa, Tony with a semi-decent joke.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    [citation needed]

  • BYODB||

    What's Paul Hogan, chopped vegemite?

  • Johnimo||

    Right on, Tony! We're so glad you can positively be FUN! If it doesn't last for long, we'll understand. However, for now, we're all enjoying it.

    I've never seen Australia "in real life." However, after 71 years of watching documentaries about foreign places and traveling on several different continents, I have a pretty good feel for what's real and what's not. Reminds me of that movie about the faked lunar landings.

    Tony, how often do you actually SEE the pilot of the airplane? Maybe the take-offs and landings are just little movies that play in each of airplane's window screens?? Huh?

  • DajjaI||

    Australia is a MYTH perpetrated by the globalists to make us believe in Jew Science.

    Bernie for King of Pointland 2020 approves this message.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Love is love and Jew Science is real.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It was not like she was teaching a course on a rigorous subject.

  • Eric Bana||

    Is there concrete evidence that Australia really exists?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I've met some supposed Australians, but now that i think about it they may have just been sunburned Irish.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I read this as "sunburned fish," which cracked me up.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "G'day, mate!" [flop, flop]

  • Johnimo||

    Too funny, X. Thanks for great humor.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No amount of evidence would make me believe in it, honestly.

  • markm23||

    Aussies could be sunburned Irish, but I doubt that anyone would work so hard at learning a distinctly not-Irish accent just for a joke.

    Other than that, my cousin married an Australian while he was in the Navy. (His sister married an Austrian - when they visit their in-laws for Christmas, they are literally on opposite sides of the Earth.) But I haven't seen him since the 1960's, so it's possible that he's become imaginary, too. The best evidence has to be my son, who also served in the Navy, and has been to several unlikely-sounding locales such as Australia, Diego Garcia, the Persian Gulf, and Bali.

  • Don't look at me.||

    compare a social norm in America with one in a different country

    I was told we are all the same.

  • Rat on a train||

    I have yet to meet a Norm that is remotely social.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Never seen Cheers?

  • Rat on a train||

    I have yet to meet anyone from Cheers.

  • Gwen||

    It's sad when we're reduced to quoting Cenk Uygur to make a point. "Come ONNNN, GOOGLE it!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    After being told by BuzzFeed News that happened some 117 years ago...

    Well, that's a bit of a stretch. I mean, come on. They still both have the same Canadian queen.

    I had a professor insist to me that I can't use "can not" in a sentence. It's either cannot or the other contraction. Professors can be a special kind of idiot, as they're often not predisposed to admitting mistakes.

  • Arcxjo||

    I didn't know Anne Murray was that big in Oz.

  • CE||

    I don't think Southern New Hampshire is a real state.

    And that prof probably get her degree online.

  • Zeb||

    As someone else pointed out, that "professor" is probably an adjunct lecturer or something like that.

  • Longtobefree||

    They are the racists.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    It's a floor wax, and a dessert topping

  • Eidde||

    You got your country in my continent! No, you got your continent in my country!

  • Sugarsail||

    I've had a similar experiences twice in school. Once in high school and once in university. In both cases I complained to the administration and they said that the teacher can grade you whatever way they want for any reason despite me having demonstrated the teacher was factually wrong in both cases. Personally, my opinion of education in this country is exceedingly low due to experiences like this and in hindsight I think all of these cases are worthy of legal recourse by the student, especially considering the power that a teachers grade may have on your future. Ego maniac teachers need to be held accountable and if the administration wont do it, the courts should. Sue them all with the greatest abandon.

  • Independent_Forever||

    Kind of makes you wonder how valuable the class itself is or what else they grade "wrong"....maybe the teacher needs to take the class herself especially if she doesn't know how to Google to find out....ego much...

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Good luck in the Olympics???? Pfft! Everyone knows Australia doesn't have winter.

  • Anon13||

    As farcical as the story is in its entirety, I'm wondering why Reason felt it necessary to preface the article with the fact that the student is a "27-year-old stay-at-home mom". How is that even remotely relevant to the story? Would the professor's ignorance be forgiven if the student were an 18-year-old single male or a 40-year-old childless widower? You have to wonder if Robby Soave's journalism professors were as incompetent at their own jobs as the "unidentified professor" in this piece.

  • Last of the Shitlords||


  • Longtobefree||

    Citing BuzzFeed.
    Needlessly injecting sex into the story.
    Anonymous professors.
    Sociology as an actual thing worthy of study.
    Can anyone suggest a web site devoted to Libertarian policy and thought?

  • silver.||

    Cafe Hayek, though focused chiefly on economics, has a good blog list on the left of the site with various websites to explore.

  • mtrueman||

    My solution, forbid employers asking potential employees questions about their educational background. Just like they are now forbidden asking about intentions to have children and a host of other personal areas. This would immediately clear the schools of students only in it for the credentials, and that's a big plus for Libertarians.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I like Soave's article except for two things.

    He might have mentioned that SNHU is a private university, so unlike government supported schools, at least fired an idiot professor. Typically it's a big legal battle to fire a professor in a government supported school. An example of free markets better serving us.

    Second, considering the political bent of Google and Eric Schmidt, I'd prefer to see Soave use "search the internet" or "look up on the internet" rather than use the word "Google". Free advertising for them is supporting the enemy for a libertarian.

  • buybuydandavis||

    " The professor has been fired:
    bout this incident isn't the professor's ignorance. It's that it took several rounds of emails and a formal complaint to force the professor to do the easiest thing in the world: Google it. "

    The most notable part *by far* is that the professor was fired.

  • Johnimo||

    "The most notable part *by far* is that the professor was hired.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Back in about 1976 I had a Social Studies teacher in sixth grade who could not understand when I tried to explain to him that the "Big Island" in the state of Hawaii is also named Hawaii. I finally just gave up in disgust.

  • Mark22||

    What's most notable about this incident isn't the professor's ignorance. It's that it took several rounds of emails and a formal complaint to force the professor to do the easiest thing in the world: Google it.

    Heaven forbid it take "several rounds of E-mails" to get someone fired! The snowflakes of Reason demand that anybody who says anything wrong ever gets fired as soon as they send an E-mail, no questions asked!

  • Vice Admiral Dikweed||

    I was always told "It's not a 'Frat,' it's a 'Fraternity because you wouldn't call your country a 'Cunt.'"
    Wise advice.

  • Benitacanova||

    Australia looks like a continent but it 'identifies' as a country, and that's good enough for me.

  • Skyhawk||

    What do you expect from a school that asserts that "talent is equally distributed around the globe" in one of it's many, many TV commercials?
    Geography and demographics are not their strong suit.

  • PubliusVA||

    Of course, Australia was NEVER "part of England." It entered the British Empire after the Acts of Union 1707, so the Kingdom of England no longer existed, and it was a colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after 1800).

  • notaluvvie||

    Wow, somebody who knows something about Australia and the Crown. Most United Statesians (as Canadians and Mexicans and all the rest on those continents (sic) are Americans too) and I'm not saying you are one, it's just this blog is full of them. I've even had a nuclear engineer compliment me on my English. It's just the parlous state of US edumucation; I mean even having to look up whether Australia is a country is a bit sad.

  • notaluvvie||

    Seems as though the lecturer/tutor was a know all snowflake who knew nothing. That's sociology for you.

  • notaluvvie||

    As the student doesn't seem to know much about Australia either I would love to read her comparison of the social norm she chose. Probably rubbish.


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