"Survey Finds Students Lost in Geography
Education: Study finds weak understanding of globe. About 13% could
not locate Canada and 50% did not know purpose of Panama
Canal :[P.M. Final Edition]. " Los Angeles Times
(pre-1997 Fulltext) [Los Angeles, Calif.] 7
Feb. 1990,2. Los Angeles
(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los
Angeles Times 1990all Rights reserved)
U.S. high school seniors have such a weak understanding of
geography that most are unable to find Southeast Asia on a map and
many do not know which parts of the world are hot and which are
cold, the government reported today.
The results of the first Education Department test of geography
knowledge follow a series of troubling reports showing that
American students have "dreadfully inadequate" reading and writing
skills, and lag behind their counterparts in other industrial
countries in math and science.
In releasing the report, officials stressed the importance of
geography in a world economy, saying students not only need to know
where places are, but to understand how environment, topography and
demographics influence events.
"Knowing basic locational facts is only the tip of the iceberg,"
said Delaware Gov. Michael N. Castle, a member of the board that
oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the
government’s testing project.
"The limited grasp our students have of world geographic
concepts will limit this nation’s ability to be full partners in
the world economy. You can’t do business with a customer you don’t
know," he told a news conference.
The scientific sample group of 3,030 seniors at 303 public and
private schools correctly answered only 57% of the 76
multiple-choice questions on the test given in 1987-88. Whites
answered 60.5% correctly, compared with 48% for Latinos and 42.5%
Ina Mullis, NAEP deputy director, said there was a "generally
low performance" by seniors in all four areas tested-locations; map
and graph reading skills; economics, environment and other factors
in cultural geography, and topics in physical geography such as
climate and weather.
"Students generally have a weak understanding of geography and .
. . the amount of geography instruction provided across the high
school grades is quite low," concluded the report, which also asked
about students’ geography studies.
Most seniors could locate major countries but had more trouble
identifying cities and other landmarks. Only 50%, for example, knew
the Panama Canal cuts the sailing time between New York and San
But the report found "puzzling" gaps even in the most basic
areas-13% of the seniors could not find Canada on a world map and
29% did not know where Latin America is.
Only 37% could locate Southeast Asia, which the report noted was
"surprising given the recent U.S. involvement" in the region.
Thirteen percent thought either Brazil or Saudi Arabia was part of
Asked what kind of change in climate a traveler headed from
northern Europe to the Middle East would experience, 32%