Thursday, May 04, 2006

Where In The World

According to National Geographic, younger Americans are not too savvy when it comes to knowing their geography. A recent poll of 18-24 year olds produced worrying evidence of geographic illiteracy. The survey asked a series of questions about the countries and peoples of the world. The results have called into question the effectiveness of the 20-minute lesson plan on geography most American students are exposed to in their 12 year mandatory educational careers.

Finding Pakistan and Afghanistan on a map proved to be difficult. The latter was missed by 88% of those polled. (In fairness, between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Waziristan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, this is a tough assignment. Grouping them all together and labelling the territory Trashcanistan might have helped.)

Thanks to Wal-Mart, seven in ten found China on a map, however 10% thought Sudan is in Europe. This is considered a forgivable error as 93% of people who have ever visited London think the same thing. A majority of those questioned could not find the Pacific Ocean. The lack of recognizable landmarks makes that a particularly tough task. Surprisingly, even with all the news coverage, 67% cannot find Iraq and 33% failed to locate Louisiana, much less New Orleans. Luckily, the US Government has a plan to make Iraq easier to find.

The new US embassy being built in Baghdad will be a useful landmark. In fact, aliens from outer space will be able to spot it without leaving their home planet. Although construction has so far eaten up $1 billion, there is only $1.3 billion to go before the grand opening. This will be the biggest embassy on the globe. The 104 acre site is being surrounded by a 15 foot thick impenetrable wall which should prevent deliriously happy Iraqis from tossing troublesome bouquets of flowers into the grounds. There will be office space for 8,000 staff members, 619 one-bedroom flats, the largest swimming pool in Iraq, barber and beauty shops, a shopping mall and a food court. Just to make sure that the embassy provides a beacon of hope to the Middle East, there will be self contained water, electricity and sewage plants built to US standards. There’s nothing like inviting a few locals over for a hot shower to provide a beacon of hope.

At least this complex, which is about two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC, will raise the morale of the dedicated State Department employees who work there. They have to agree to spend a whole year in Baghdad (minus the vacation every three months and the two trips back to the States). That leaves ample time to try all the fast-food joints in the food court and get a couple of hair cuts. Clearly, a new phase in US-Iraqi relations is planned as the diplomats replace the troops.

The government might be able to use this idea to put New Orleans back on the map as well. Providing reliable water, electricity and sewage facilities might perk up morale. The parts of town above the flood line could be filled with new flats, shopping malls, swimming pools and food courts. Surrounding the place with a 15 foot thick impenetrable wall would also help.

In the meantime, the strip-joints have been reopened in the French Quarter, 24-hour drinking is back, and the party is on. Clearly a new phase in New Orleans-visitor relations is planned as the bartenders replace the troops. National Geographic should be happy to know that the map reading skills of the 18-24 crowd are expected to improve dramatically.


Blogger Mark Base said...

I'm afraid Americans are quite well-known for their geographical ignorance.

Great blog you've got here...Come over to mine for a quick visit (and a lesson on life in Sweden).

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Ananke said...

Where is Carmen Sandiego when you need her? Doesn't matter, apparently we Americans wouldn't know where to start looking. ;-)

7:57 AM  
Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

I'm always shocked at the utter lack of geographic competance among my fellow countryfolks.

I gave myself an advantage by stamp collecting as a youth, with the goal of having a sample from each country in the world. I got pretty close, and even wrote to the philatelist organizations in most countries.

Maybe I am just an oddball.

Congrats on the book. I've put my own blog-to-book Common Sense up for offer to various agents/publishers but to no avail. What is your little secret?

6:25 PM  
Blogger Jorge said...

Trashcanistan. Priceless.
And Carmen Sandiego rocks.

2:26 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

yeah, yeah, what jorge said.


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12:15 PM  

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