Some years back, the Miss America Organization began referring to itself as the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women, a response to those who complained that the pageant was simply a grandiose beauty contest.
And while thousands of contestants around the nation who didn't make it to Atlantic City may have received some money to continue their educations -- despite the fact that many are already out of college -- the inability of Miss America finalists to answer some fairly basic questions about the United States and its treasured institutions shows that attractive as they may be and as talented as they may be, scholars they ain't.
There she is: In all fairness, the new Miss America, Katie Harman, does have legitimate academic credentials: she received an Oregon Laurels Scholarship; is on the Portland State University Dean's list; received the President's Award for Educational Excellence and an Oregon Scholar designation. And she did answer six of the eight questions correctly.
The others didn't fare so well.
And what were these tough questions -- all multiple choice -- that stumped the "scholars"?
Which country gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States as a gift? (France)
Who was the first African-American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? (Thurgood Marshall)
Which of these historical documents begins "When in the course of human events ..." (The Declaration of Independence)
Which of these monuments has as its inscription, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? (The Statue of Liberty)
At no time in American history have there been so many living American presidents, how many are there today? (Six)
What is the highest judicial authority in the United States? (U.S. Supreme Court)
Started by the Kennedy administration this world-wide service organization is celebrating its 40-year anniversary. What organization is this? (The Peace Corps)
A diabetic, this Emmy-award winning actress recently spoke to Congress about finding a cure for diabetes using stem-cell research. Who is she? (Mary Tyler Moore)
Miss America officials said that the "Knowledge and Understanding & quot; phase of the competition would be an opportunity for each contestant to distinguish herself as a woman who is sensitive to -- and aware of -- current events, U.S. history and U.S. government. It didn't quite work out that way.
Perhaps they should simply stick with the new "Lifestyle and Fitness phase of the competition" (read swimsuit) and the "Presence and Poise phase of the competition" (read skin-tight evening gown) and leave the quiz show to Regis Philbin.