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Americans' Geographic Ignorance

  1. Freeway Flyer profile image84
    Freeway Flyerposted 5 years ago

    Why do you think that Americans score so poorly in comparison with other nations on global geography tests? I tend to think that it is a reflection of a lack of interest in the outside world.

    1. kirstenblog profile image78
      kirstenblogposted 5 years ago in reply to this

      You mean there's a world outside the north american continent?! yikes

      1. NCBIer profile image61
        NCBIerposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        You must mean aside from the downward spiral in test scores on virtually any topic? I would have to agree with you, although that perspective is becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans to maintain in such a connected world.

      2. Stump Parrish profile image61
        Stump Parrishposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Pick any subject and you will find that American students are well below par when compared to the rest of the world. Our educational system is not doing it's job or is it? The less intelligent a populace is the easier it is to control. This country is poised to elect Sarah Palin to the office of president. She has no experience in government except for the last job she quit. She is a past beauty queen and this is enough for her to have a real chance at being elected. It appears that our educational system may be doing it's job after all. "Stupid Is As Stupid Does" will be the new motto on the back of our currency with in the next 10 years.

        1. rafken profile image74
          rafkenposted 5 years ago in reply to this

          I agree, it is probably your teachers that are at fault. There again, they probably only majored in geography because they could name the other States and know where half of them were. As for Sarah, at least she knew it was Russia she could see from her window. Good sense of direction, miraculous vision. Better than most politicians today.

        2. couturepopcafe profile image60
          couturepopcafeposted 5 years ago in reply to this

          I'm not poised to vote her in as president.  She's not qualified.  A funny person, knowledgable to some degree about how D.C. is run, but not presidential material.  Too glib.  I want a serious, down to earth person who is not overly concerned about diplomacy but knows a lot about consideration and the Constitution.  I know this is the territory of Justices but a president needs to know it inside out.  So do the other two branches.  A person with a backbone, conviction, consideration, and a killer walk.

      3. Shahid Bukhari profile image60
        Shahid Bukhariposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        I think, the Americans are as good as any ... academically ...
        they are just careless, because, they care two hoots, for whats happening elsewhere in the world.

        Why ?

        Because, Americans have evolved a lifestyle of EASE and COMFORT.
        This is not right ... Ever seen the pics of wall paintings, showing the Romans enjoying life ...

      4. 0
        David99999posted 5 years ago in reply to this

        The answer to this is a simple one. American public K-12 schools have *never* taught world geography. If they did, Americans would be just as knowledgeable as any other nationality.

      5. kcreery profile image60
        kcreeryposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        That's a good question.  Maybe Americans don't travel as much as other countries.  It depends if they took geography in school and learned the location of the US.  A lot of board games like Risk have the location of the US on it.  Perhaps they have never left the US so they don't really need to know how to get back there if they never leave.  I don't think the question is American bashing.  I'm from Canada but I don't know how many people can't find Canada on a map.

    2. psycheskinner profile image83
      psycheskinnerposted 5 years ago

      I am not sure they do.  Geographic knowledge is limited in a lot of places.  I suppose it is natural that people from geographically small countries might have more awareness of their global context.

    3. waynet profile image49
      waynetposted 5 years ago

      That could explain the vast amount of wasteland that hasn't been discovered yet! Although there could be mutants living in the hills picking people off that pass by.....

      1. kirstenblog profile image78
        kirstenblogposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Well the hills have eyes wink

        1. waynet profile image49
          waynetposted 5 years ago in reply to this


          1. kirstenblog profile image78
            kirstenblogposted 5 years ago in reply to this

            love that movie big_smile

            1. waynet profile image49
              waynetposted 5 years ago in reply to this

              Liked the original and the remake....but the sequel to the remake was a bit too much lol!

              1. kirstenblog profile image78
                kirstenblogposted 5 years ago in reply to this

                Not sure I have seen the original and yeah the sequel was a little disappointing hmm

    4. kerryg profile image88
      kerrygposted 5 years ago


      I think it's pretty sad how bad Americans are at geography and foreign languages. My nephew came home from school the other day with the news that at least one of his classmates couldn't even find the USA on an unlabeled map - these are 7th graders, mind.

      That said, I also agree with psycheskinner that I'm not sure it's necessarily an exclusively American problem. My sister-in-law speaks three major languages fluently (or close to it) and is from a country most Americans have never even heard of, but she couldn't find Portugal on a map.

      I like to practice my geography on Free Rice: http://freerice.com/ My brother was a geography geek, so I'm decent at it, but not fantastic. All those tiny countries in West Africa always murder my level. tongue

      1. Sally's Trove profile image99
        Sally's Troveposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Absolutely right in every way, except, the other countries and regions could be 50% smaller. We are a nation of political, cultural, and social isolationsists. It's ironic that we all came from elsewhere.

      2. Freeway Flyer profile image84
        Freeway Flyerposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        I almost posted that map on my most recent hub.

      3. habee profile image92
        habeeposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Thanks for the link! I'm addicted now. I spent hours this morning with the art, geography, and vocabulary tests!!

    5. kirstenblog profile image78
      kirstenblogposted 5 years ago

      That map is sooo accurate! lol

      1. waynet profile image49
        waynetposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Yeah, I know, at least I know where Santas at!! Time to send him my Christmas list!

        1. kirstenblog profile image78
          kirstenblogposted 5 years ago in reply to this

          Now where on that map are we who live in merry old england? lol

          1. waynet profile image49
            waynetposted 5 years ago in reply to this

            Wait a minute!!!! We are above the pussies! and we are invisible!!!!

          2. Rochelle Frank profile image89
            Rochelle Frankposted 5 years ago in reply to this

            I thought England dissappeared after Americans won the Revolutionary War and the war of 1812. smile

    6. kazemaru2 profile image58
      kazemaru2posted 5 years ago

      Yea it has to do with little emphasis on geography in school or ethnocentrism.

    7. rebekahELLE profile image92
      rebekahELLEposted 5 years ago

      I had to view it closer to see what it said about Europe.. that's funny. I guess I never thought of Europe like that with the history of the world wars. but it is most likely hilariously accurate I would imagine.

      I'm sort of a history/geo geek, cuz I've always enjoyed learning where people come from, different cultures and even have one of those big world maps in my home office.  we used to play that board game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.  my sons were terrible at geography, so I thought it would be helpful since they weren't learning it in school.
      I'm sure it would still take them a while to find Estonia.
      [hint, it's above Latvia!!]

      1. 0
        Sophia Angeliqueposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Let's see. If we all have to be equally educated so that no child is left behind, then it's much easier to be equally dumb than equally informed.

        Also, if we want everybody to be interested in the topics they are studying so that they will study better, then the solution is to study interesting things - like beauty queens, films, etc. Math and science isn't interesting to some so that's a poor topic to teach at school. And better not enforce it, otherwise some will fail. And we cannot have that.

        And if we teach things like science and math, then we have to teach them logic. And if we teach them logic, then pretty much they're going to figure that Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and some other icons of belief don't exist. That would be absolutely disastrous.

        When Sarah Palin becomes president, I'm going to buy a TV so that I can be entertained every night.

        1. Cagsil profile image82
          Cagsilposted 5 years ago in reply to this

          lol lol lol lol lol

    8. livelonger profile image91
      livelongerposted 5 years ago

      Yes, Americans truly know (and care) less about geography than most other parts of the world. My feelings are that it's due to a few things:

      - Most Americans are wrapped up in their own lives. They don't know much more about other states in the US either.
      - You aren't exposed much to other countries. Contrast this with, say, Europe, where you cross a national boundary and hear another language every few hundred miles.
      - We have a melting-pot culture that quickly erases any national origin once you speak the language, dress the same way, engage in the same cultural pastimes, etc.

      Having lived in Europe, I know the alternative. Along with the good of knowing about the rest of the world (being able to understand the news in context), Europeans unfortunately do not assimilate new immigrants well, never being able to shake what they know about the immigrants' country of origin (almost always negative) or really thinking of them as being a fellow citizen. They generally can not stop thinking of them as being a national from another country.

      Of course, we have the same problem here against Mexicans, but it's only a segment of native-born populists and usually old ones, at that. And even with them, when the immigrants speak English, dress in Old Navy, and watch (American) football, the sensitivity towards their national origin usually vanishes.

    9. Tusitala Tom profile image88
      Tusitala Tomposted 5 years ago

      It could be that the American Education system doesn't encourage children and older students to learn about other countries.  I was brought up in the UK where, at that time, world maps showed 'Great Britain' as ruling half the world: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Ceylon, plus numerous islands such as the British West Indies, Malta, the Falklands and Chatams Islands et cetera.

      Countries such as France, Germany, Japan also had their 'empires' so naturally the educational authorities in these lands would have taught their students about them.

      And, as has been said previously, Europe is a hotch-potch on states, the biggest being only around the size of Texas, the smallest just a few hundred square miles, so naturally it'd be in their interest to know about what going on around them.

      No, excuses for America now, though.  The Internet is here - and we have HUBPAGES!

    10. Ben Evans profile image74
      Ben Evansposted 5 years ago

      I don't think that it is necessarily true that the US is any more geographically less knowledgeable than the rest of the world.  I think that is more of joke than it is a fact.

      There are many people here who don't know and don't care because the are more worried about "getting by" than what is happening in the rest of the world. 

      There are many in the US that have a good knowledge of world geography.

      I believe this will be consistent with other places around the world.

    11. couturepopcafe profile image60
      couturepopcafeposted 5 years ago

      Thanks to the media, the rest of the world will know more about the U.S. than the U.S. will know about the rest of the world.

      Thanks to the elementary and high school educational system, teachers are mandated to teach certain subjects in a certain way for a limited amount of time.

      I'm pretty sure kids aren't interested in geography, never were, may never be.  If this is something an individual is interested in personally, they'll usually seek information out on their own, or excel in a given subject in the short period of time it is taught.  Otherwise, really, who cares where any country is unless you have some need or interest to know.  That's always the way it's been.  Nothing's changed from the student's viewpoint.

      Thanks to agribusiness, we are being physically slowly poisoned which, naturally, creates dumbness.

    12. ttrash profile image60
      ttrashposted 5 years ago

      I think it definitely is a case of some but not all. Obviously not EVERY person in the country is completely geography illiterate, however I did once have an American tell me that Australia is part of Europe...

    13. know one profile image59
      know oneposted 5 years ago

      As Australians visiting our American friends some years ago we were invited to speak to a class of kids at the local primary school about our country. Almost to a person, they only wanted to tell us about America, although our stories of deadly creatures held their interest... but only for as long as it took them to answer back with 'better' stories about their own. I probably know more about one girl's grandma and her racoon problem than I do anything about my own Grandma. There just seemed a real lack of natural curiosity about them... And the internet really only feeds the curious.

    14. habee profile image92
      habeeposted 5 years ago

      In the 9th grade, we all had to take World Geography. By the end of the school year, we had to identify every nation on the globe. Of course, I've forgotten some of what I learned, but I still have a decent grasp of global geography. BTW, this was in a public U.S. school.

      1. leahlefler profile image97
        leahleflerposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        The standards for education vary a lot, depending on the state (and district)! In California, there was no requirement for geography education when I was in school (I graduated high school in 1995). In fact, my high school did not have a geography class! There were no geography classes in the elementary or middle schools, either.

        My sister is 8 years younger than I am, and went to school in a different district. By the time she was in high school, a requirement for world geography was instituted. She had to take geography in 9th grade, I believe. She was recently in training for a new job and a colleague was shocked when she learned that Washington, D.C. was not in Washington State. True story.

        I learned more about geography by living in Ireland for a year than I ever did in school, though adults who cannot locate major countries on a map have no excuse: goodness gracious, read a newspaper or look it up on "the google!"

        The US lacks national standards for education, beyond basic literacy and arithmetic goals. The level of science, world history/cultures/geography, foreign languages, etc. are all set by the individual states and school districts. We currently live in a wonderful school district with high academic standards.

        My five year old can point to a few countries on the map, so he's probably ahead of some of peers, lol!

    15. 0
      ryankettposted 5 years ago

      As much as I would love to stand up and stick up for our American cousins, in America I met:

      a) Somebody who thought that England was the capital of London.
      b) Somebody who asked what state England was in, to which my reply was "New Hampshire".

      As a 16 year old I met somebody who asked where I was from, to which I replied "England", he subsequently said "You don't sound like your from England, whereabouts. To which I replied "Around 150 miles north east of London", and to which he then said "oh, you sounded German" hmm

      There are tonnes of Americans who travel all over Europe, who live in work in Europe, and who have a thirst for exploration and the experience of other cultures in Asia, South American, etc. BUT, you do seem to have a higher than average proportion of people with a sublime ignorance of anything outside of their own corner of the world.

      I actually blame this on your media, rather than your education system, it is very rare that any global events are reported unless your president takes an interest in it. In the UK the media takes the interest first, largely thanks to the BBC.

      You are also a very large country, I'm sure that small town folk from central USA have a higher tendancy to be ignorant of anything outside of their town. You won't find many people in San Francisco, New York or Chicago who don't know anything about non-American culture..... they wouldn't have any choice either, what with the Irish bars, the Anglophiles and the China Towns.

      I do see a rise in ignorance levels in the UK though too, a system whereas millions of people are effectively controlled by what Rupert Murdoch wants them to know rather than self-education. I also live in a part of the UK whereas people often take very little interest in anything outside of this county, yet alone outside of the country. I know people in their thirties who have never had a passport and are willing to keep it that way.

      1. superwags profile image83
        superwagsposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        I've had "you sound German" from Americans too! (I'm from NE England).

        When asked where I was from by an American a few years ago I responded that I was from the north of England and the guy said, "do you still speak English up there as your language, or do you speak "Scots"?"

        I know a lot of very clever Amercians who have absolutely no idea of geography at all. A US uni friend of mine told me she was hesitant about going to a conference in Budapest because "she'd never been to a muslim country before."!!!!

      2. kerryg profile image88
        kerrygposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        "You are also a very large country, I'm sure that small town folk from central USA have a higher tendency to be ignorant of anything outside of their town. You won't find many people in San Francisco, New York or Chicago who don't know anything about non-American culture"

        Hmm, yes and no. It goes both ways. I grew up in a small town less than half an hour's drive from downtown Omaha and still met a 6 year old there once who told me proudly that she'd been to Omaha two whole times in her life.

        But by the same token, there are plenty of people living in the big cities on the coasts who've been to Europe or Asia more times than they've visited rural or wilderness regions of their own country, and I don't consider that any more healthy an ignorance. If you've never seen a wild forest or a real family farm (let alone what they get replaced with), why would you care that they're both being systematically and deliberately destroyed? Nor does it do anyone any good if people from the coasts continue to think that Midwesterners and Southerners are all uneducated hicks and Midwesterners and Southerners continue to think that people from the coasts are all arrogant elitists who couldn't last a day in the real world.

    16. Candelish profile image79
      Candelishposted 5 years ago

      As an American in a small but growing city in FL, I have to (in part anyway) agree with the previous blogger who believes the news conglomerates are somewhat to blame.  They are very insolating, along with being focused on the negative.  It is rare for local station news to report items from abroad unless it has some spectacular affect on the world.  For example:  The protesting and governmental changes currently happening in the Middle East.  For the most part it seems that they specialize in US based stories or those about the military guaranteed to incite public comment.  Usually the shock factor and horror drives what stories are placed on the local news.  Again at least to me, mostly negative.  Then they take that negative information and put as much drama as possible into it, whether it leads the viewer to incorrect conclusions or not.   The national news agencies are especially good at dramatizing issues of a less attention gathering level, however they do show a lot more world content.  Usually without showing a world map to help those less informed figure out where the stories are coming from.

      That being said, a large part of the blame should be placed on our teaching institutions for their lack in teaching Geography, Science, History, Art, Music and even Physical Education!  Unfortunately ever since all schools were given the No Child Left Behind mandate by President Busch the second, most monies have been tied up with how well the schools due in Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  So of course teachers spend most of their time trying to get their students to pass the tests, instead of just opening up an entire world of knowledge and activities available to each student.  Most truly caring teachers do try their best and most schools do offer additional educational experiences (usually funded by charity organizations or fund raisers in some way).

      With such specific test prepping, is it any wonder that US citizens are not as geographically adept as other countries?

    17. rebekahELLE profile image92
      rebekahELLEposted 5 years ago

      There are plenty of books and resources to educate if people want to explore geography because it's not emphasized in schools. Also there are tv channels about other countries like National Geographic, The Travel Channel, Discovery, shows on PBS.
      I used to play Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego with my kids.
      I was amazed at what they didn't know. Geography should be part of every child's education. We live in a big world, not some tiny dot on a map. hmm  I do agree that it isolates people in not caring about the rest of the world, or understanding issues in a more cultural sense.

      I have one of those National Geographic world maps on a wall in my study. It's nice for handy reference.

    18. 60
      sunsetclubposted 5 years ago

      This sounds like an agenda-driven topic geared to bash ordinary Americans.  How do you know "most Americans are geographically ignorant"?  This is a snobby, "I'm smarter than you" discussion.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.

      1. superwags profile image83
        superwagsposted 5 years ago in reply to this

        I don't agree, most of the people on these forums are american. It does generalise, but it's borne out by the facts too.

        http://www.amergeog.org/newsrelease/AGS … orance.pdf

        1. 60
          sunsetclubposted 5 years ago in reply to this

          Americans many times are foremost in their bashing of other Americans.

      2. CHRIS57 profile image60
        CHRIS57posted 5 years ago in reply to this

        Certainly this cannot be blamed to the Americans.
        It is only that us Europeans must be well informed. If we didnĀ“t know where we were, we would fall off the world disk and that would be really awful.

    19. megs78 profile image60
      megs78posted 5 years ago

      Who cares whats happening in the world?  Jerry Springer is on!!!