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Helping Your Child Learn Geography

Remember thumbing through an atlas or encyclopedia as a
child, imagining yourself as a world traveler on a safari in
Africa, or boating up the Mississippi River, climbing the peaks
of the Himalayas, visiting ancient cathedrals and castles of
Europe, the Great Wall of China? We do. The world seemed full
of faraway, exotic, and wonderful places that we wanted to know
more about.
Today, we would like to believe that youngsters are
growing up similarly inquisitive about the world. Perhaps they
are, but recent studies and reports indicate that, if such
imaginings are stirring in our youngsters, they're not being
translated into knowledge. Not that there ever was a "golden
age" when all our young and all our citizens were conversant
about the peoples and places of the globe. Still, there is
considerable evidence that such knowledge among young Americans
has dipped to an alarming low.
Last year, a nine-nation survey found that one in five
young Americans (18- to 24-year-olds) could not locate the
United States on an outline map of the world. Young Americans
knew measurably less geography than Americans 25 years of age
and over. Only in the United States did 18- to 24-year-olds
know less than people 55 years old and over; in all eight other
nations, young adults knew more than the older ones.
No less disturbing was the fact that our young adults,
when compared with young adults in other countries, came in
last place in a 1980 Gallup Poll. Our 18- to 24-year-olds knew
less about geography than their age-mates in every other
participating nation. But it shouldn't surprise us. Youngsters
in other countries study more geography. In England, Canada,
and the Soviet Union, geography is considered one of the basic
academic subjects and is required of most secondary students;
in the United States, only one in seven students takes a high
school geography course.
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