How Geographically Literate are you?

November 16, 2007

I recently was browsing the web (looking for Adut Literacy related stuff), and came across an interesting (slightly outdated) article from the National Geographic News. The results are kind of sad.

The 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy surveyed Americans aged 18 to 24. It found that this age group continues to lack basic knowledge of the world. Fifty-four percent of the respondents were able to correctly answer all of the survey questions.

Some highlights (or lowlights?): nine in ten couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia, half can’t find New York on a map, one-fifth think Sudan is in Asia, three-quarters failed to find Indonesia on a map, and told they could escape an approaching hurricane by evacuating to the northwest, only a third could indicate which way northwest is on a map.

Read the full article here:
Young Americas Geographically Illiterate, Survey Suggests

Test yourself here:
Geographic Literacy Poll

We are living in an increasingly global world, and the inability to identify parts of the world is unacceptable.  We need to teach ourselves, our students, our children and grandchildren how to read a map, how to identify different continents/countries, use a compass, and be made aware of the various landforms we pass by daily.


3 Responses to “How Geographically Literate are you?”

  1. yashna Says:


    This is very interesting. What a find! Sadly, these stats do not surprise me.

    From a reading literacy stand point my thought is that once a person has convinced themselves (and has society support it) that they cannot read, then they shut themselves off from absorbing any other types of knowledge. Also, a lot of knowledge is kept from people when they do not know how to decode text. I know that I am reliant on Google to provide me with easy answers, and all of my searches are text based.

    Several tutors have also reported to me that their students do not know how to find NC on a map of the US. And we all know that our students are very intelligent, a lot of them have 2 jobs, are valued workers, parents, and members of society. Some of our students even own their own businesses, yet somehow, we society, have failed them in this way…accessibility of knowledge through reading.

    Oooooooh, I could go on about this. So basically I am trying to say that my theory is that folks “lack basic knowledge of the world” often times because of their inability to decode words…reading.

    Thanks for the great topic.

  2. From a reading literacy standpoint, I understand what you mean. The inability to decode words can affect one’s ability to know about the world.

    On the other hand, many fully literate, college-educated individuals cannot identify parts of the world. I think this has to do with our society and the emphasis on popular culture/consumption. This is what makes me ill.

  3. Kelly Says:

    I once had an employee with a graduate degree who could not point to England on a map. Another one couldn’t point to Greece. It is really very worrying. It’s one thing to have trouble finding Uzbekistan, but England??

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