Foreign Policy Blogs

Casual Friday: Where is Afghanistan again?

No, silly, INSIDE your headNow here's something to talk about when you are out at dinner tonight:
The Foreign Policy Association (yes, This Foreign Policy Association) recently cited some unhappy statistics.  Ninety percent of the schoolchildren in the United States cannot identify Afghanistan on a map, despite the fact that our troops and reconstruction teams have been there since just after the September 11, 2001 massacre at New York's Twin Towers.  Our troops and reconstruction teams have been in Iraq for four years, and they make news headlines every day, but only 25% of U.S. schoolchildren can find Iraq on a map.  As far as I can tell, the U.S. populace in general has this problem–not just the schoolchildren. 

Of course, reaching out on geographical literacy in an international relations blog is like preaching to the choir.  Each reader presumably holds an already-active interest in world affairs.  But here are some talking points and suggestions you can use to get others interested in geography.  I’d like to point out that promoting geographic literacy is going to create informed voting, analysis, and activism on a wide variety of issues.  Because, as in all kinds of illiteracy, what people don't know can take them unaware.  But promoting geographic knowledge doesn't have to include a soapbox lecture: there are many ways to influence others and get them interested. 

Building geographical literacy one-on-one and family style
Encourage others to:

Use an atlas or the internet to look up the places in the news and take note of the surrounding countries, the terrain, and nearby cities.

Obtain an atlas they can actually use.  My personal favorite is 6" by 9 ½",  portable, has beautiful maps, and costs under $20.00.  (See Worth Reading-General).  It would also make a great graduation gift.

Play geography games with their family:  Play "World Capitals", where family members have to match the state capital to the nation and vice versa.  Play "Lakes and Continents" or "Mountain Ranges and Continents".  You can play this game in the car when you take a family trip or have three questions per day at the dinner table.  Leave the atlas on the kitchen counter or tuck it under the car seat so you can check each other's accuracy.  (BTW–Thanks, Dad!).

Encourage others to look up the same issue or event on the internet from one home-grown and foreign source.  Allow them to compare for themselves what their favorite news source considers important and what the international source finds relevant.

Portal page for geography education materials from Spartacus Schoolnet
Play Geosense, an online geography game
BBC has games for schoolchildren ages 4-11
Check out the Foreign Policy Association home page in blogroll at right; (FPA is also raising funds for Geography Literacy; Full Disclosure: no one asked/ordered me to make this post)
University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library has great maps
CIA Factbook has all the stats by state, and many ranked pages on issues

Photo:–yeah, buddy–