A geographic literacy study released this week provides new evidence that young Americans have a disturbing lack of basic geographic knowledge about the world.
Business leaders and educators were at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington D.C. recently to unveil a new public education campaign designed to give kids the tools to become better world citizens.
Janice Bell is Research Director for the Roper public polling organization, which is part of the campaign, expresses concern. "You know, our futures are much more tightly tied together including that of the United States and the world. And we are really finding that young people are unprepared for this increasingly global future."
The survey included 510 people between the ages of 18 and 24 from all over the U.S. They were asked basic questions about world geography and current events using maps and other materials. The results were startling to some.
Ms. Bell adds, "Yes, young Americans had a hard time finding certain countries on a map or a region of the world. But what was more important, this (demonstrates) a lack of a functional knowledge. How do things relate together? What do you know about people who live in different parts of the world? And how does it impact back upon the United States?"
Despite the fact that the U.S. military has been in Iraq for more than three years, six out of ten young Americans couldn't find it on a map of the Middle East. And nine out of ten couldn't find Afghanistan on a map of Central Asia.
To try to do something about that, the National Geographic Society created an interactive web site called MyWonderfulWorld.org.
Ana Weselak is president of the National Parent Teacher Association. "Children need to have the opportunity to understand other cultures around the world. We have a tremendous need for understanding diverse cultures in our society, that is who children live with and play with. And we need to see ways that children can learn about that."
The website contains a variety of games, online adventures, and classroom tips to help kids learn more about the world.