Where in the world am I? Apparently, many students in the United States have no idea.
In a 2006 Roper survey, it was found that students in the U.S. fail to understand their world and their place in it. Of Americans aged 18 to 24, seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel on a map. Nine in ten couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia. And 54 percent were unaware that Sudan is a country in Africa.
The 2002 project also surveyed 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Great Britain. The U.S. trailed every other country in that survey, except Mexico, which did only slightly worse. Even for U.S. geography, the survey results are just as dismal. Half could not find New York State on a map of the United States. A third of the respondents could not find Louisiana, and 48 percent couldn’t locate Mississippi on a map of the United States, even though Hurricane Katrina put these southeastern states in the spotlight in 2005. About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn’t even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean’s location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent.
In order to spark interest in the subject, National Geographic hosts the National Geographic Bee to encourage teachers to include geography in their classrooms, spark student interest in the subject, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test of geographic knowledge.
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the National Geographic Bee, a nation-wide geography competition in Washington, D.C. for students in 4th through 8th grade. In that quarter century, about two percent of the competitors are girls and only two girls have won the $25,000 first prize scholarship. Education reporter Lindsey Foat sat down with two local finalists Prani Nalluri and Aviral Misra.
The National Geographic Bee will be shown on KCPT the day after the competition, Friday, May 24 at 1 p.m.