Maphead: Chapter 3 Review – Fault – Tyler Anson

Hello all,

My name is Tyler A. and I am introducing…….me! I am currently a freshman here at Lake Travis High School. My geographical background is not as great as I would like it to be, but I hope to be one day travelling around the earth. I have lived in Texas for eight years after moving back from California where we lived for two years. Before that, we were back here in Austin, Texas. As of now, I have not been out of the United States, but to name a couple places I have been within the US, I have been to California, Florida, Virginia, Georgia (well, at least the airport there), both Carolinas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, and been on a quick drive through a couple other states. I currently am “unilingual” as I only speak English, however I would like to eventually learn Mandarin (Chinese) and possibly another undecided language.


For my chapter review, I will analysing and discussing my opinions on Chapter 3 of “Maphead”, Fault. Fault is a chapter describing how us, the world, and especially us Americans, are very much geographically illiterate. Jennings interviews David Helgren, a retired professor from the University of Miami, who talks a lot about even college students who were in his introductory geography class, were shockingly bad at geography and more specifically, “place-names”. “Eleven of his Miami students had even misplaced Miami!”(33). Helgren goes on to talk about how he was involved in a lot of interviews where the main topic was map illiteracy.  Even “Good Morning America” had a map illiteracy story, where they interviewed Helgren who had to be hustled onto a plane to New York.


Continuing on, Jennings talk about how Helgren wasn’t the first person to find out about the American cultural map illiteracy, but more of the first person to publicize the idea. Jennings goes on about how the American culture has just become so geographically ignorant, and how “it’s become an easy bit of comedy shorthand ditziness”(36). He goes on to explain that most of the world was geographically illiterate a couple hundred years ago, but that “didn’t prevent French educator Denis Martineau du Plessis from filling the preface of his 1700 book Nouvelle Geographie with Joey Tribbiani-worthy stories of map woe”(36). Jennings then goes on to talk about other stories involving geographical illiteracy. One story he tells is how real geographical officials make geographical gaffes all the time (Such as the mixup between Mauritania and Mauritius, two very different nations). He goes on and on about geographical illiterate people and stories within the US, and how journalists and educators are surprised about the kids’ ineptitude (N-Lack of skill, ability, and/or competence). “At some point, isn’t this only news if the kids suddenly start doing well on map quizzes?”(37).


Next, Jennings goes on to talk about how Americans might even me getting worse at geography and “place-names”. He talks about how some people blame the curriculum revolution from the 1960s and 70s, where “the clear-cut history and geography classes of grade schools past were replaced by a wishy-washy amalgam called ‘social studies’”(41), and how we now associate geography as something our grandparents studied. He also goes into detail about how geography illiteracy may also be caused closer to home, and how kids today live in a world without “place”-”without personal exploration through real-life geography of any kind”(43). Jennings also explains that it maybe the current generation of parents that is helping to decrease geographical literacy even more, saying things such as “Stranger Danger” even though only 115 children are abducted per year!


Finally, Jennings talks about how the decline in geography is easy to understand, for “we live in an age of ever-increasing specialization, and geography is a generalist’s discipline”(46). He also goes on about how maps are a part geography’s decline, for pretty much everything on Earth has been thoroughly mapped, and people just aren’t into map creating nowadays. Going on, he talks about how kids were always given a map and told to memorize, while they were never being told what the map told, or what the regions of the maps held or still hold within them today. “In linguistic terms, we’re teaching them the words but not the grammar and then being surprised that they can’t speak the language”(49).


I really enjoyed this chapter for a few reasons. I now feel like the American literacy over geography is standing on my shoulders, and how my peers and myself have the power to increase geographical literacy or make it even worse (Hopefully not the latter of the two). It really interested me to see how culturally embedded we are to being lazy at geography, while also learning some very cheesy jokes that famous people from the mid 1900s used. I agree completely with Jennings about everything he says within this chapter, including his opinion on the terrible idea of jamming history and geography into one class, and it seems like the very small amount of geography I have learned so far has mainly been about locating states, and that being it. I feel like Jennings really was able to “get some traction” with this chapter, and it made me really question my stand on geography and the human interaction with geography. I really liked the last quote I took from the chapter as well, for it really captures the thought about how simply memorizing places doesn’t help nearly as much as learning the culture within that place. To me, the culture seems ten times as important as just being able to locate the place on the map, and I believe the fellow “Mapheads” believe that as well, but from what I understand, MOST of America are just not interested in geography, not interested in map, not interested in being “Mapheads”. Why might you ask? Well I have no clue.



PS America should never be second to last in anything, especially place-names.



4 thoughts on “Maphead: Chapter 3 Review – Fault – Tyler Anson

  1. Hi Tyler, I really liked your blog and how its good and describing the overall geographic illiteracy of Americans. I think its ridiculous how people living in a certain city like Miami can’t even find their hometown. Thats got to be a wakeup call to Americans. I also like how you provided a definition in your blog to help me understand the word.


  2. In your post I liked how you were able to describe the geographical illiteracy of America while maintaining your voice throughout. It was an enjoyable read, not just a boring informational book review. In your description of yourself, you said you wanted to learn mandarin as a second language, why do you want to learn this?


  3. I really liked the way you were able to describe this chapter in detail without making it ridiculously boring or way too long. Do you consider yourself to be geographically illiterate, and do you thing the teens of today have the abilities to prove that not everyone is geographically illiterate?


  4. At the beginning of your post you stated “My geographical background is not as great as I would like it to be”. Do you feel lack of travel is a direct cause of geographic illiteracy as outlined in this chapter of Maphead? Or do you feel that geography is better learned in a textbook or historical document? I know for me I have a much greater recall of places I have visited versus locations I have just read about.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s