Young adults in the United States fail to understand the world and their place in it, according to a survey-based report on geographic literacy released today.
Take Iraq, for example. Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war there began in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate the country on a map of the Middle East. 70 percent could not find Iran or Israel.
Nine in ten couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia.
And 54 percent were unaware that Sudan is a country in Africa.
Remember the December 2004 tsunami and the widespread images of devastation in Indonesia?
Three-quarters of respondents failed to find that country on a map. And three-quarters were unaware that a majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world. “Young Americans just don’t seem to have much interest in the world outside of the U.S.,” said David Rutherford, a specialist in geography education at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.
…Even for U.S. geography, the survey results are just as dismal.
Half could not find New York State on a map of the United States.
A third of the respondents could not find Louisiana, and 48 percent couldn’t locate Mississippi on a map of the United States, even though Hurricane Katrina put these southeastern states in the spotlight in 2005.
Many young Americans also lack basic map-reading skills.
Told they could escape an approaching hurricane by evacuating to the northwest, only two-thirds could indicate which way northwest is on a map.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the finding that few U.S. young adults seem to care.
Fewer than three in ten think it’s absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located. Only 14 percent believe speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill.
Fewer than one in five young Americans own a world map. [full report]
Luckily Americans have the guidance and leadership of George W. Bush.