Good News and Bad News from National Geographic
The 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy delivered some bad news about the basic geographic skills of young Americans. Over 500 "young Americans" aged 18 to 24 from the continental United States were interviewed to test geographic knowledge. Respondents answered about half (54 percent) of all survey questions correctly. Geographic knowledge in today's world is critical as the future for young Americans grows increasingly global. World events dictate key understanding of geographic concepts and skills. The majority of young Americans lacked these skills and an understanding of the world today. Even recent news events, wars, and disasters didn't increase geographic awareness:
- 88% could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia.
- Only 37% of those surveyed could find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map of the Middle East, and 75% couldn't find Israel or Iran.
- 75% of the young Americans did not know that a majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim.
- 54% did not know that the Sudan is in Africa.
- 70% could not find North Korea on a map.
- 33% could not find Louisiana on a map of the United States.
- Half of the young Americans could not find the state of New York on a map.
The survey also revealed that many young Americans' awareness about the world in which they live was limited. Six in ten don't speak a foreign language fluently, and three-fourths believe English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world, rather than Mandarin Chinese. And only 22% of the young Americans have a passport.
There was some good news in the report: Many young Americans did have map reading and navigation skills, and half actually answered that map reading skills are "absolutely necessary." Also the number of young Americans who read current events on Internet news sites has more than doubled in the last four years. This is hopeful because respondents who used the Internet to read the news actually performed better on the geography test.
National Geographic has launched a program and blog called My Wonderful World to help increase the geographic literacy and awareness. This program is "a campaign to increase global learning in school, at home, and in the community." The site offers ideas and activities for anyone interested in geography and is located at http://mywonderfulworld.typepad.com/my_wonderful_world_blog/
National Geographic also created a huge supersite called People and Places that will help anyone learn more about the world. The site includes photographs, maps, and information about every country in the world and is located at http://www3.nationalgeographic.com/places/
Test your geographic knowledge at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/roper2006/
Please contact or visit the GCMC for more ideas about improving the geographic literacy of the young Americans in your life.