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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Where in the World are We

The 2006 Natinal Geographic - Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy in the USA has been blowing through the blogosphere lately.

My Expatriate Odyssey gave us some interesting empirical data that show the "problem" is not limited to the US students ... take a look at it here.

In terms of the MSM, CNN carried a blurb on it. Best of the Web Today at the Opinion Journal is usually good about commenting on these things, but didn't seem to say anything about it. Oddly enough, others also appear to have passed on this story. Even the New York Times didn't have much to say about it, and they generally print all the news that fits. Apparently this story is either un-newsworthy or these people have a lousy publicist.

If you really want to learn more about the survey findings, you can find an overview here. From there you can download the full 89 pages of findings and survey methodology in pdf format if you are so inclined. I was.

If you are a PhD student or budding pollster looking for ideas on how to structure your own Geographic Literacy poll, you might find this interesting for the 42 page Questionnaire & Field Manual used to gather data.

I do want to comment specifically on one survey finding: More people were able to identify Mississippi (52%) on a US map than New York (50%) and Ohio (43%). Fascinating!

When I lived in New York City, it didn't really matter that there was a "New York State," and Ohio was in Flyover Country, that geographic region one sees from the air while on the way to the Left Coast. Mississippi wasn't even on the map, a view that is evidenced by a big n/a in the 1998 column of the survey results. If National Geographic - Roper says Mississippi was n/a in 1998, then it must not have been there. 'Nuff said 'bout that. But what about Delaware?

This gem comes from Overheard in New York (viewer discretion advised due to graphic nature of some of the content ... We're tawking about F***ing New York heeah!), which is an ongoing collection of conversation snippets people hear in various parts of the city and diligently report. Some of these things might be made up, but in a decade of New York living, I heard thousands of snippets like these. Anyway, on to Delaware:

He Does His Best Thinking in the Laundromat

NYU boy #1: Dude, let's go to Delaware. I've never been there -- I didn't even know it was a state until the quarter came out.

NYU boy #2: Oh yeah, you told me that. That was like last week.

NYU boy #1: Yeah, man.

  -- University & Waverly

Overheard by: a girl who's ashamed to go to NYU sometimes

Which gives one reason to reflect and wonder if the US Mint might be better equipped than "Big Education" to teach our children. It is also heartening to hear that the youth of today are paying more attention to their money than one might have thought.

As for National Geographic - Roper Report, there seems to be an agenda here, but I'm not going to comment much on it ... suffice it to say that when you see a link entitled "Notify Your Lawmakers" half of you will think this is a good thing and the other half will be reaching to check that your wallet is still in your pocket.


Blogger Maribeth said...

That is pretty funny. And pretty true. I am n ot the best person to read a map, but I at least know that Delaware is a state. (In Canada? Just kidding!)For all that American kids are supposed to be inferior to European kids, I must say I cannot even count the number of times I have been asked by Euro-kids where New Hampshire is.

6:15 PM, May 06, 2006  
Anonymous Hamish said...

I imagine it's hard to get interested in geography without an underlying interest in world cultures or travel. That might explain why most American kids suck at it. By the way, did you know you can major in Geography at University? I think it's one of those "jock majors," though.

Also, I attended NYU once upon a time, and I'm not surprised. He must have been in GSP (bit of an inside joke there).

9:55 AM, May 07, 2006  
Blogger Claire said...

In the eigth grade, I came in 7th in the National Geographic SC State Geography Bee. I was the only girl in the final 10. I was beat by a fifth grader. I think my geograhpy skill began a massive drop when I hit 21 and could legally drink.

2:44 PM, May 07, 2006  

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