VOL. 25 NO. 3, MARCH 29-APRIL 4, 2004
We're flunking world geography
By Mickey Maurer
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Test your knowledge of world geography by trying to answer the
-- Bhutan is a landlocked country bordered by India and what other
-- The Strait of Hormuz separates the Arabian Peninsula from what
-- Large dams on the Sog and Thonsa rivers provide hydroelectric power
for which island country just south of the Arctic Circle?
-- If you are flying directly from Cape Town to Cairo, which of the
following countries would you NOT fly over: Botswana, Zambia, Cameroon
-- What new nation, formerly in the Soviet Union, has the same name as
one of our states?
If these questions are difficult for you (as they were for me), try an
easier one: What body of water, the earth's largest, covers the entire
western coastline of the United States? If you guessed the Pacific
Ocean, you are correct and more geographically literate than the nearly
one in three Americans age 18 to 24 who couldn't locate the Pacific
Ocean on a map in a survey commissioned by the National Geographic
It is vital to Indiana's future that our students--the future leaders
of our business community and our state--not only be able to locate the
Pacific Ocean, but to know the nature of our world and our place in it.
Our leaders need to develop sensitivity to location, scale, movement,
patterns, resources and conflicts. That is why it is disconcerting that
the study of world geography as part of the Core 40 (college-track)
high school curriculum is under attack.
The Indiana Education Roundtable, the organization that makes
recommendations to the Indiana Department of Education, had proposed
changing the Core 40 social studies requirements to focus on world
history instead of offering a choice between world history and world
The course was retained for the present school year when it became
apparent eliminating it would be controversial. Indiana educators who
were opposed to the change have discussed a number of options that
would integrate geography and history. The Indiana Legislature must
approve new courses.
The chief proponent for emphasizing world geography education is
Geography Educators' Network of Indiana Inc., whose mission is to
promote the value and importance of geography education in Indiana
schools. According to GENI, the study of world geography is essential
because it helps people understand, think knowledgeably, and make
decisions about the world in which they live.
Geography is not a collection of arcane information. It is an
integrative discipline that brings together the physical and human
dimensions of the world in the study of peoples, places and
environments. Geography has much more to do with asking questions and
solving problems than it does with rote memorization of isolated facts.
Today's business is transacted without borders. People and places of
Earth are interwoven and Indiana interacts with the world at large. I
suspect global literacy is essential for many positions at Eli Lilly
and Co., Guidant Corp., Brightpoint Inc. and other locally based
A hundred years ago, few homes had a telephone. Today, as our global
economy becomes more interconnected, understanding our world will
require higher levels of competency in geography. Why then, is
geography education in Indiana subject to question? In the 21st
century, as Indiana continues its endeavor to become a player on the
world stage, its citizens need to be geographically literate.
For further information about Geography Educators' Network of Indiana
Inc., contact its director, Kathleen Lamb Kozenski, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be pleased to furnish the answers to the geography questions by
Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns
Indianapolis Business Journal. To comment on this column, send e-mail
to email@example.com or go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.com.
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