The following crossed my RSS feed via one of my favorite online comics, XKCD.
Although humorous, the comic’s portrayal of American ignorance is troubling, especially for educators. Sure, the implication is that Americans know a lot about large chunks of the world. However, the comic also demonstrates attitudes that are troubling about those areas in the world that are not as familiar to us. To think, there was a time when we probably couldn’t have picked out Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.
How do we overcome this lack of geographical awareness?
As with any societal ignorance, the solution begins in our schools. Teachers have many tools available that can help them help their students learn about the far reaches of our planet. There’s the virtual reality of Google Earth and the many, many possibilities for this truly amazing tool.
There’s also the many alternative views of the world not found in our text books. Take the Peters Map which tries to represent the size of the continents in a more accurate manner. There are tools for mapping activity on Twitter which can help students see prevailing messages in different parts of the world. Language is closely tied to geography and there are plenty of maps for that sort of information. Or for a more personal touch to world geography, check into an account with ePals for a pen-pal project.
With so many resources available on the web, there are no excuses for not improving our global awareness. Maybe through a concerted effort, we can change comics like the one above.
Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center. He updates his blog Suppl_eMINTS from time to time.