OK, this makes people look bad. But as Yahoo notes, 2/3 of people looking up who Osama bin Laden is on the internet are teenagers.
Likely interpretation of this information from most people who hear it: "Oh, our children are so uneducated! Our schools are failing us!!!"
But is this true? After all, why should they know about Osama bin Laden? Of course, there are obvious answers to that question. But a few notes here in defense of our ignorant kids:
1. It's not like Osama bin Laden has been a major feature in our national narrative since about 2002. Bush said he didn't care about catching him. We focused on Iraq and then finally Afghanistan, but how often has the media mentioned bin Laden in the past 9 years? Not a whole lot.
2. A 16 year old today was quite possibly 6 years old on September 11, 2001. How much do you remember from when you were 6? Some 6 year olds are going to remember 9/11, others not. Another 3-4 years and none of our college freshmen will remember 9/11. Time passes and it passes fast. We shouldn't blame our kids for not knowing the recent past because most of us didn't when we were 16 either.
3. And that leads to my final point--this is a conversation that older people have had in one way or another back to probably the beginning of human history. Our kids don't know about (the Kennedy assassination) (the Vietnam War) (Pearl Harbor), etc., etc. The horror!!!! We need to relax and realize take it easy on our kids. They'll have the same conversation in 20 years about this or that. It happens.
That the Yahoo post linked to above notes that the leading states for these searches are the rural states of the American West is a phenomenon of some interest, but I have nothing to offer about it.