Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Geography Greek to Young Americans

Geography Greek to Young Americans. I sadly point out this report from CNN.

It notes, "The study, which surveyed 510 young Americans from December 17 to January 20, showed that 88 percent of those questioned could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia despite widespread coverage of the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and the political rebirth of the country."

This is not a surprise to me. I once was talking about Afghanistan in class and discussed the Soviet invasion and the American boycott of the 1980 Olympic games. Sadly, a student asked me what the heck the Soviet Union was. He brightened up when I told him that it was an earlier version of Russia. (I know. That is not exactly true but at least he could grasp what I was talking about.)

The report also notes, "In the Middle East, 63 percent could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map, and 75 percent could not point out Iran or Israel. Forty-four percent couldn't find any one of those four countries."

And they can not find Iraq. No wonder it is difficult to engage my students in serious debate about the war in Iraq. They do not know where it is and they have no idea about the history of Iraq or any other Middle East country.

Of course, there are many bright students who understand geography and history in the USA. But there sure are a lot of them who are geographically illiterate and do not care to correct the problem on their own. I will not even go into the story of one woman in my class who thought Canada was in Europe and actually argued with me about it...

1 comment:

Glass said...

We have a system where bad education law and bad administration are restricting teachers from reaching students. Schools are required to prepare for standardized testing instead of being free to teach. If the students do poorly on the tests, the government cuts their funding. The system makes no logical sense, yet it is at the core of our national education legislature.

Every standardized test I have taken (CAT, Proficiency, SAT, ACT, PRAXIS, and others) has included little or no history and geography, as well as writing, literature, art, music, and other subjects that are just as important as math, science, and grammar. Students are deprived of culture, creativity, and opinion. They memorize and take tests. They have a bad attitude about school and learning.

Parents, teachers and professionals need to put pressure on school administrations and national and state lawmakers to change this system. We need to give teachers more freedom and schools more money. Right now the entire system is heading toward a state far from what could be defined as education.