Can you spot Iraq on a world map? Do you know on what continent the country of Sudan is located? The 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy found that only 37% of young Americans could find Iraq on a map although U.S. troops have been there since 2003. 20% of young Americans think Sudan is in Asia. Half of young Americans couldn’t find New York City, the largest city in their country and the financial capital of the world, on the map. Americans ages 18 to 24 came in next to last among nine countries surveyed. The survey also indicated that more young Americans know where the TV show CSI is set than those who know Iraq on a map. The survey concluded that too many young Americans have a limited understanding of the world. On the contrary, the United States has a literacy rate of 99% and is the world’s economic powerhouse. Can you believe this apparent paradox?
Geographic literacy is more than knowing state capitals and countries in the world. It's rather an understanding of how people and places interact, where things come from, diversity of cultures, and how economies are connected. Without good knowledge of world geography, America’s young generation is unprepared for an increasingly global future. Understanding the world is the key to become a global citizen.
Geography opens the doors for curiosity for everything around us. By learning about interesting places we could come to know that the world we live in extends a lot further than the boundaries of our neighborhood. There are people in other parts of the world who live in different conditions and speak different languages. Geography not only engulfs physical and political aspects but also stimulates us to investigate about the cultural and historical places and people that exist in different parts of the planet. The 21st century community cannot just think of their community and their country. They need to be global citizens.
Global knowledge is important for every American because of its global connections - people and cultures, economics and environments. Our young people need to know world geography in order to understand today's world and succeed in tomorrow's. But they're not getting enough of it, in or out of school. Students need to go on a quest for geographic knowledge and increase their global IQ.
- Neeraj Sirdeshmukh