Indianapolis Business Journal


VOL. 25 NO. 3, MARCH 29-APRIL 4, 2004

MAURER: We're flunking world geography

By Mickey Maurer

Test your knowledge of world geography by trying to answer the following questions:

-- Bhutan is a landlocked country bordered by India and what other country?

-- The Strait of Hormuz separates the Arabian Peninsula from what country?

-- 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 or Sudan?

-- 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 Society.

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 geography.

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 international operations.

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

I will be pleased to furnish the answers to the geography questions by e-mail.

Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. To comment on this column, send e-mail to or go to IBJ Forum at



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