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Boston Public Schools Swap Out World Maps

© Wikimedia commons
© Wikimedia commons
Students in Boston public schools recently faced a new reality when checking out the new maps that graced the walls of their classrooms — their world was different.

Or more specifically, the world maps that hung in their classroom.

That is because the Mercator projection map, which has graced the walls of classrooms across the country for decades, was switched to the Peters projection, a map which many say more accurately depicts the size of the continents.

“These maps offer a more culturally proficient view of the world than the traditional Mercator Projection maps, which distorts North America and Europe by representing a greater land area relative to their South American and African counterparts,” school officials said in a statement.

The initiative will see the Peters Projection maps placed in all second, seventh and eleventh-grade classrooms. It comes as “part of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum,” according to Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of Boston Public Schools Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps.

"So this is about maps, but it isn't about maps," he told the Boston Globe. "It's about a paradigm shift in our district. We've had a very fixed view that is very Eurocentric. How do we talk about other viewpoints? This is a great jump off point."

Mercator Projection map/Wikimedia commons
Mercator Projection map/Wikimedia commons


For more than 500 years the Mercator map, created in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, has been considered the standard map projection for much of the world.

Created for marine navigation, specifically navigation of colonial trade routes, the map featured straight lines across the ocean and exaggerates the sizes of certain continents and countries, particularly those of the northern hemisphere which are made to look larger than those in the southern hemisphere.

An example of this can be seen in how the map draws Greenland larger than Africa, which actually has a geographical area 14 times its size. While Europe is shown as being larger than South America, which is nearly double the size of Europe.

The Peters projection was published in 1974 by German historian Arno Peters as superior to the Mercator projection, although cartographers recognized it as being identical to a map made by Scottish cartographer James Gall in the 1800s.

The map, often referred to as the Gall-Peters projection, is “area correct” or an equal-area map which shows every part of the world to scale and in proportion to the surface of the Earth.

Peters claimed in developing the map that less-developed countries were presented in a “fair manner,” unlike how they are shown on the “Euro-centered” Mercator projection.

The controversy on map accuracy is ongoing, as the below clip from Season Two of The West Wing television show.

https://youtu.be/vVX-PrBRtTY?t=41s



Cartographers say that every flat map misrepresents the surface of the Earth in some way and that the best representation of the surface of the Earth remains the globe.

What's your opinion on the map debate?

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The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

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