Frisco Enterprise > Opinion
(Editorial) Where Is It? Better geographical knowledge needed
By ACN Staff
Part of Jaywalk All-Stars, comedian Jay Leno's arguably humorous take on the idea that we're getting dumber and dumber, is a map question.
Leno displays a picture of some obvious place or facet of nature - like China or an alligator - and the people being asked to identify it try to come up with a stupid but funny answer.
This comic routine, of course, plays on a more serious issue - our longstanding and widespread geographical ignorance of the world. Most of us are familiar with the surveys, news reports and academic studies that show both children and adults share this parochialism.
Here's a typical example: In May 2006, CNN reported a study showing that after more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still could not find Iraq on a map.
As Geothe said, "There's nothing more frightening than ignorance in action."
The study commissioned by National Geographic also found that less than six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, well over a third of respondents could not point out Louisiana on a U.S. map.
"Taken together, these results suggest that young people in the United States ... are unprepared for an increasingly global future," the study concluded.
Efforts to address the problem are spreading.
Texas students must study it. Geography is part of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills for eighth- and 10th-graders.
Admittedly, geography can be challenging, even daunting. There's a lot more to it than simply picking out countries on a map.
And so, clever, innovative approaches to teaching it are helpful.
We saw one of these in Frisco recently, when Spears Elementary School PTA invited a private group, Mobile Ed Productions, with its gigantic globe covered with satellite photographs.
These are useful efforts to fill an unfortunate and costly gap in our knowledge. More schools should undertake these kinds of projects and encourage more students to enter the field of geography.
Whether as a teacher, cartographer or other kind of researcher, they can help us improve our understanding of why things happen - and where.