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Our Geographically Challenged Society

Postby knapplc » Tue May 02, 2006 12:25 pm

As a fan of geography, cartography and the like, I find this news very upsetting:

WASHINGTON - Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the damage from Hurricane Katrina, nearly one-third of young Americans recently polled couldn't locate Louisiana on a map and nearly half were unable to identify Mississippi.

Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 fared even worse with foreign locations: six in 10 couldn't find Iraq, according to a Roper poll conducted for National Geographic.

"Geographic illiteracy impacts our economic well-being, our relationships with other nations and the environment, and isolates us from the world," National Geographic president John Fahey said in announcing a program to help remedy the problem. It's hoping to enlist businesses, nonprofit groups and educators in a bid to improve geographic literacy.

Planned is a five-year, multimedia campaign called My Wonderful World that will target children 8 to 17. The goal is to motivate parents and educators to expand geographic offerings in school, at home and in their communities.

They will have their task cut out for them, judging by the results of the survey of 510 people interviewed in December and January.

Among the findings:

• One-third of respondents couldn't pinpoint Louisiana on a map and 48 percent were unable to locate Mississippi.

• Fewer than three in 10 think it important to know the locations of countries in the news and just 14 percent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill.

• Two-thirds didn't know that the earthquake that killed 70,000 people in October 2005 occurred in Pakistan.

• Six in 10 could not find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.

• While the outsourcing of jobs to India has been a major U.S. business story, 47 percent could not find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.

• While Israeli-Palestinian strife has been in the news for the entire lives of the respondents, 75 percent were unable to locate Israel on a map of the Middle East.

• Nearly three-quarters incorrectly named English as the most widely spoken native language.

• Six in 10 did not know the border between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified in the world. Thirty percent thought the most heavily fortified border was between the United States and Mexico.


Joining in the effort to improve geographic knowledge will be the 4-H, American Federation of Teachers, Asia Society, Association of American Geographers, National Basketball Association, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, Smithsonian Institution and others.

"Geography exposes children and adults to diverse cultures, different ideas and the exchange of knowledge from around the world," said Anna Marie Weselak, president of the National PTA. "This campaign will help make sure our children get their geography — so they can become familiar with other cultures during their school years and move comfortably and confidently in a global economy as adults."


I would say that I could answer every one of the bolded bullet points if asked in a survey, especially if they let me look at an atlas while answering them. If I had to answer off the top of my head I'd probably get no more than one wrong.

Our education system sucks in this country. We don't teach kids to want to learn - school is just a monotonous series of classes full of rote learning techniques, uninspiring and without real-world practicalities that would make what they're trying to teach hit home to the student. Without that kind of application to their daily lives, the lessons become one large blur of unimportant data.

We don't teach critical thinking, we don't teach kids to try to learn on their own and we don't teach them to question the "realities" that we're taught. We're failing in our education system, plain and simple.

Stuff like this just proves it.
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Postby Dolfin99 » Tue May 02, 2006 12:39 pm

This is disturbing. At a minimum, they should know the Geography of the US.
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Postby ironman » Tue May 02, 2006 12:45 pm

I'm a geography geek so this whole thing really troubles me.

The flat out ignorance is troubling but even more so is this sort of apathy that Americans have towards their ignorance.
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Postby mysticphysh » Tue May 02, 2006 12:56 pm

Yeah most of that you learn in 3rd grade. Only one stumps me...

Is arabic the mostly widely spoken or Chinese?
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Postby Plindsey88 » Tue May 02, 2006 1:26 pm

mysticphysh wrote:Yeah most of that you learn in 3rd grade. Only one stumps me...

Is arabic the mostly widely spoken or Chinese?


It's gotta be Chinese...

And I would imagine English, Spanish, and Hindi are all pretty closely grouped for the 2, 3, and 4 spots...

I would guess Arabic would be number 5....

A lot of people speak Russian or Bengali, though... So Arabic might be even further down the list....
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Postby moonhead » Tue May 02, 2006 1:53 pm

i think it's chinese, russian, spanish, then english...at least that's how i remember it being taught in one of my anthropology classes. but that was at least 5 years ago and my memory isn't what it used to be.
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Postby Mercer Boy » Tue May 02, 2006 2:16 pm

ironman wrote:I'm a geography geek so this whole thing really troubles me.

The flat out ignorance is troubling but even more so is this sort of apathy that Americans have towards their ignorance.


Yep...that's pretty much it. We really don't know how good we have it here. Because of that, people get complacent and don't feel they need to use their mind about ANYTHING. It's really a shame...all I can say is that I am always thankful that I am smart. :-)
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Postby dream_017 » Tue May 02, 2006 2:55 pm

Sad...very, very sad. I will personally make sure that my sons know where each state and the major countries are...and remember it. Geography is pretty cool and even if you don't like it, I think you should at the very least know where the states are located.
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Postby SwiperNoSwiping » Tue May 02, 2006 4:46 pm

They should at least know Louisiana... 8-o
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Postby jayday » Tue May 02, 2006 4:54 pm

Ha...It doesn't surprise me...There is a large, large group of Americans, especially today's younger generation(which I am ashamed to call myself a part of this group), that are stupid....

I wonder what kind of results you would get if you polled other countries?
Last edited by jayday on Tue May 02, 2006 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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