Hey. I’m Caroline R. I am a freshman in APHUG. My family flew over from Maryland to Texas to stay when I was just over five years old. As a preteen and early teen, I have enjoyed brief interludes in Florida, California, Seattle, Washington D.C, New York, and Angel Fire, New Mexico. I have yet to explore outside the country.
Chapter three, Fault, of Maphead, by Ken Jennings focused on the geographic illiteracy in today’s society. Geographic illiteracy (generally) is the inability or difficulty of placing somewhere on a map. It’s heavily linked with spatial reasoning and sense of place. Jennings gives an example: A college freshmen class taking a map test, told to locate thirty different places from the famous to the more exotic. The results of the test baffled the professor. “…more than half of his students couldn’t find Chicago. Or Iceland or Quebec or the Amazon rain forest. Fewer than one in three knew where Moscow and Sydney were. Eleven of his Miami students had even misplaced Miami!” (Pg 33). The media jumps on the findings and spreads the news. People start noticing the geographical slip ups of everyone from Miss Teen USA candidates to U.S. Senators. It seems America is hopeless!
Ken Jennings concedes, though, that the media does blow things out of proportion and leave out reasonable factors. He also chalks it up to the increasing dependence on technology for information. “We’ve chosen insulated lifestyles—insulated by car, by TV, by iPod or Internet or cell phone—that distance us from our surroundings, that treat any kind of navigation through or interaction with our environment as a necessary evil.” (Pg 43). He points out other contributors—the decrease of emphasis on geography in schools, in the outdoor activities area, and even the decline in the free time of children. People learn and often excel with space-names…but locating on a map is entirely different. Another example given was of an American couple traveling in Europe. They misspelled one letter in their GPS and ended up in some obscure micro-village. As Jennings points out: if they had used a map, they would have seen that where they were aiming to could not be reached in a two-hour car drive! Where they actually meant to go was over a days drive away!
It’s not saying that the world will end if someone who will probably never go to Somalia can’t locate it on a map, but the the seriousness is evident closer to home. Many people often get lost or delayed because they didn’t understand or ‘misread a map’. Furthermore, little simple mistakes can lead to catastrophes as they have in history, from bombs being dropped in the wrong location to accidentally entering a danger zone. Still, he expresses hope for the future. Funding and higher standard has been achieved nation wide, and with it, a possibility for geographical literacy.
Now, I was surprised to learn of the apparent issue with our generations geography. It’s all incredibly relatable, from the local issues we face with directions to the placing of important global locations on a map. I was even a little more embarrassed when I realized I was suffering from the same thing! It’s true that many teenagers spend a great amount of time focused on anything but geography, and it’s also true that many adults are just as inept. I also think it’s become such a problem because no one has ever considered it to be incredibly important to begin with. In this age, we are relying far too heavily on GPS and Google Maps, so dependent that when technology fails us (and it does) we don’t know what to do next! We are lost without our precious wifi signals, slaves to the monotone voice emitted from our phones. What happens when, one day, that voice goes silent? What then?