Where’s Our Geography Class?

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Michelle Morgan, Staff Writer

In all twelve years of public school before college, not many students, if any, have taken a class in school for geography. And it shows. Regardless of the controversy in other countries, and our own, a staggering number of United States citizens cannot place the USA and other countries on a map when asked. The name for this geographic unawareness is called “geographic illiteracy”, and in general, the US has the worst case of it in the world.

For being such a well-educated country, many of the United States’ young adults are unable to place other countries, and even their own, on a map. In a 2002 study of 3,000 18-24-year old’s, only 17% could place Afghanistan on a map. Even with the growing conflict in this region, very few people could even identify the country itself.

Consider how this number would change if the school system required a geography class in middle or high school. Students would be more likely to know where countries are in the world and would be able to carry that knowledge even after school.

What’s even more astonishing, less than 15% of the same young adults could not even place the United States on a map when asked to point it out. Even our own citizens possess geographic illiteracy so badly that they don’t know where they live in proximity to other countries on the planet. Although students are required by many educational systems to take history/social studies classes, that does not mean that they are taught basic geography.

In general, students in the US learn more content on historical events than current. This means that although there is immense conflict in many middle eastern countries, very few young adults know where they are. A study of young students shows that in 1994, 75% of students fell short of proficiency in geography. In 2014? Still 75% of students are under geographic proficiency.

Given these statistics, it should be a no brainier to the school systems of the US that our students need a required geography class to break through the geographic illiteracy of our nation.