Our world is shrinking. Every day the world seems to get smaller as technology draws countries, people, and ideas closer together. It takes mere seconds to communicate with someone on the other side of the planet, but what good is this communication if we don’t know anything about the people we are communicating with or the places they live?
Why can very few people find major countries, cities, or landmarks on a map? According to a recent study undertaken by the National Geographic Roper’s Society, sixty percent of Americans cannot locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Please keep in mind our troops have been stationed there for almost six years now. According to the National Geographic website, less than half of Americans polled could identify the Indian subcontinent despite the outsourcing of thousands of jobs to that region lately. Finally, seventy-four percent of American students believe English is the most widely spoken language in the world, when it is really Mandarin Chinese.
I would understand these abysmal numbers if the demographic polled was between the ages of four and ten, but the age range is twelve to twenty-four! How can our generation expect to be successful in the increasingly competitive global economy when most can’t identify where their competition is? How can anyone claim to want world peace when they understand nothing about those they are trying to make peace with?
I believe knowledge of geography and other cultures will make Americans more internationally appealing in the global economy, a characteristic that is becoming increasingly more important in the world today. I believe knowledge of geography and other cultures would help the youth of America to gain a greater tolerance for other peoples. If a student can identify a location and understand how the geography influences the culture, I believe he or she will want to learn more about the people that live there. If the same student gains an understanding of other people and cultures, his or her instant connections will be more meaningful and we all will be one step closer to the world peace we all want so much.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.