June 5, 2020

Geography – Why is it widely ignored in education?

A strong point for Americans is definitely not geography. I never understood this, as knowing geography is one of life’s most important skills. How many times have you called a friend to ask directions to his house? How many people have used road maps, Mapquest, Google, and even GPS satellites and still got lost even if the directions were good? When giving directions, are you familiar with landmarks or even road shapes to help the traveling person? And if you said yes to the last question, did you learn by yourself or in school?

In school, I had social studies class in 6th grade, which was a combination of history and geography. I did learn a little, but exactly that – a little. In 12th grade, I did have to take a geography class, but all we did was read and answer questions at the end of a chapter. This class was considered an elective and was not required. I actually learned more geography reading Anglo-Saxon literature in my 4th year of English. Wait – we need 4 years of English and no requirement of geography? This sounds ignorant.

National Geography

Maybe we Americans do know more about national geography since it is what we learn more about. Or am I mistaken? If I ask a student where the Golden Gate Bridge resides, I am positive more students than not will be right by saying San Francisco. Of course, other assumed landmarks in our national geography would include the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building, the Whitehouse, and Niagara Falls. However, I would not be so positive if I asked students what the largest mountain is in America or even if they can give me the name of 3 mountain ranges. So, if we are ignorant as a whole with national geography, how do you think we will fare with world geography?

World Geography

The 2 landmarks Americans might know are Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. They may also know where the Nile and the Amazon Rivers are. Notice I said “may.” A few years ago, there was a survey of students in Texas who were asked, “What country lies directly south of Texas?” Eighty percent of students got this question incorrect. The Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and most Americans have no idea where the Ukraine is. Those who think they do believe it is still part of Russia.

I used to live in the Ukraine and I had a problem with my bank account and was unable to receive funds out of an ATM machine. I explained to the banker my problem and my location and she asked, “I don’t mean to sound dumb, but where is the Ukraine?”

Geography Quiz

Take a geography quiz to see what you know. I will give you a few questions now to look up later. Remember, geography should be required in school curricula.

  • What is the oldest city in the USA?
  • In what capital city is the Red Square?
  • In what country can you find Machu Picchu?
  • What is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live side by side?