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Geographical Ignorance :(


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#31 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 23:56

QUOTE(snhs @ Jun 7 2008, 12:30 AM) View Post

[I don't care if other countries are laughing at us, so long as we have the last laugh. Each country must take policy decisions to bring about the outcomes they consider desirable. If for other European capitals that means being able to pinpoint the capital of Bolivia is vital to their future success then fine, if it means knowing enough about the vital countries/organisations and better positioning us for the future then I'm all for it. Apart from anything else nothing says that parents can't take their children home and sit them down while they point at maps and ring off capitals, the fact they don't suggests that the country at large doesn't consider it as important as some Europeans might think.

General knowledge is all very well but it changes. Today people know about Iraq War 100 years ago they'd have known about the Boer War. Perhaps yesterday people knew all the worlds countries and capitals and today they know the WWW and computers.


You really think we're going to have the last laugh? We're going down the same road as America and you think they're going to have the last laugh? An ignorant population, or a population that knows nothing except trivia and how to surf the net but learn very little is in a prime position for being endlessly manipulated - to spend money on things we don't need, to support wars that do nothing except bring misery to the populations they're inflicted on and wealth to the perpertrators (Halliburton, Carlyle etc).

What about ethics? Do you really think knowing about the world around us is just so much trivia for the brain? Can't you see there might be a deeper reason for knowing about the world? Something to do with a human connectedness? Do you see education merely as a means to enrich oneself financially? Why have a music education in that case? It's not going to help many people become financially well-off after all, is it?

Do you really think the best way forward for the world is for citizens to think only of themselves, and for countries to do likewise? Isn't that the cause of all the problems in the world? America going around starting wars for its own self-interest, education dumbing down to perpetuate big business? Who really benefits in all of this?

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#32 Wobby

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 00:09

Hmm... well, I think that at least some basic grounding in general knowledge is useful in order to establish greater understanding into countries and their mindsets - at least, if you know where a country is and its neighbours, every time you hear it on the news, you will understand the political situation in that area as a whole.

I can see where snhs is coming from in that we should greater priority in learning the most relevant facts first, but I think general knowledge should be taken to a reasonable standard (e.g. knowing the capitals and locations of the main countries, and our closest neighbours). I would probably expect people to know the 'main' (if such a term can be used without accusations of arrogance) countries in Europe, and around the world e.g. Norway (one of the lesser required ones, but I would expect people to know) for example, or even that its capital is Oslo, but I wouldn't necessarily expect them to have heard of Tirana, Skopje, Chisinau or Ljubljana - despite the fact they are in Europe, from a realistic point of view, is it not of high relevance.

There are games you can play to improve your general knowledge if you are so inclined - http://www.sheppards..._games_menu.htm . I managed to learn most of the countries in the world, their states, state capitals etc, just because I was fed up of not knowing hardly any questions on those general knowledge quizzes. Despite this, I think that we should not necessarily put too high a value on general knowledge - I believe that we should at least sort out mathematical competency in the youngest generation before caring how many global currencies they can recite.

But that's another thing that I find irritating - science is surely equally important in the world as the arts, but never manages to get equal acclaim in pub quizzes, etc. It really should be a 50% split - in fact, even the so-called 'science' questions turn out to be stupid artsy questions like 'Where was Newton born?' - the average scientist wouldn't care, that is a matter for historians. If we're going to talk about improving people's history and geography, and think we should also say that it is ridiculous if people do not understand basic scientific concepts and lack mathematical ability.

Then again, I do regret not having been taught some of the stuff at school - I have to admit that my knowledge of history is particularly poor. The point is, when you're a kid, you can assimilate so much knowledge with minimal effort... I think that the education system is partly to blame though. I still do go to a comprehensive, and did have many things not taught to me that I had to pick up myself. I did GCSE Geography, and would argue that it's fine for it to be mainly scientific. But at primary to high school level, the lessons were just there to fill up time, and the course content could have been significantly improved and used as the opportunity to enrich people's general knowledge in the mean time before they start picking up the fundamental skills at GCSE and A Level.

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#33 Guest: Mad Tom_*

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 00:55

QUOTE(Wobby @ Jun 7 2008, 12:09 AM) View Post

in fact, even the so-called 'science' questions turn out to be stupid artsy questions like 'Where was Newton born?' - the average scientist wouldn't care,

Well he should. He should be reading Newton's works and biography to find out how great minds work. Newton was born in 1642 in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire. Anyone that calls themselves a scientist - or at least a physicist - and neither stumbles over that fact and remembers it, nor has the curiosity to find it out, is not going to be much cop at their profession.

But I agree British "education" and the resulting widespread ignorance - is shameful

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#34 Wobby

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 01:08

Perhaps, but my point was that it was just another 'fact' question that anyone could have learnt. I don't think you have to have researched the life of all scientists in the past to be a good scientist - as a musician, is it the life of the composers you were more interested in, or their works? Do you think Newton cared for where Galileo was buried? Or Beethoven which was Bach's favourite wig? Sure, it may be interesting to know, but I think there would be a fair few virtuoso musicians out there that didn't know where and when Mozart was born, for instance. But what I was saying was why should those that study science be expected to know the birth date of Newton, where Galileo died, or what sort of clothes Henry VII wore, when an arts student is not expected to know how the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci worked, the significance of antibonding orbitals in the paints or dyes they would use, or how the hand muscles that Charles Dickens used to write his works contracted to hold the pen... not particularly fair. tongue.gif

To be honest, I think it's the vicious circle of pressure on exam boards to reduce course content to make greater proportion of students achieve better to make Government look better, with schools obviously choosing the optimum exam board so that they meet Government targets, so public are fooled into voting for said Government again... And I think we are a bit too soft in the sense that we're condoning failure to the extent that people shrug it off, or are even proud to do so. Of course, it's about finding the right balance - on the opposite end, we would not want pressure so great that people do not start jumping out of windows for failing too!

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#35 lizbun

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 07:50

Beijing in Germany? ohmy.gif wacko.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif mad.gif



and I don't know if this was a joke (and i'm realy worried if it isn't because most people I know including this person China and Japan the same wothout even knowing about the two countries), but a person in my class (15 years old) thinks that Japan is not in Asia - it's another continent at the side... I suppose the UK isn't part of Europe rolleyes.gif (why do we have E-numbers!?)



In Japan, I had to lean ALL 47 Japanese -shires by memory from north to south, but I forgot most of it blush.gif I still have an vague idea about where it is though...


And school doesn't teach anything about where countries are either exept for the continent...
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#36 SaxFan

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 08:51

just found this thread...
Support you utterly Violinia.

"Baby out with the bathwater.." absolutely, and what a shame.
General knowledge is nowadays almost totally ignored - in favour of things seen as 'useful'. Is that all that education is about?

And who said education is about skills? It's about a lot more than that. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge for example. Latin would tell you what 'education' means surely.
Someone else mentioned techtonics etc .... in relation to Glasgow or somewhere local.. how many ox-bow lakes are there on the Clyde? I should say that 'Housing reform' is sociology not geography. Geo = earth, not people, doesn't it?

This kind of narrow thinking gives us narrow mindedness, doesn't it?

If some folk can't place London on a map... how is Washington of importance except to Geordies? biggrin.gif

Lucky045 had the good fortune to go to a comprehensive with some right ideas then. And, Miss Ross, it's not ALL youngsters who are woefully ignorant. That's too general.
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#37 mwl1

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 09:56

It does frustrate me when people have barely heard of places within five miles of where they live. These people always tell me that they don't need to know where x and y are, because they just get in the car and their parent drives and they sit looking at the floor, and that always works for them. I know people who know which bus to get to the cinema, and that's about as far as it goes.

I suppose people starting to rely on sat-nav systems is another reason why people have such a poor idea of their local surroundings. My dad recently bought one after getting lost more times than was tolerable (he insists on telling everyone about it after each journey, much to my frustration rolleyes.gif) and it doesn't remotely make you think about where you're going.

I am often assumed not to know where anywhere is, on account of my age. That's why I always want to put a smug voice on when I end up giving these senior people directions... rolleyes.gif

And, I hate to sound boastful, but I am starting to consider that, at least for a resident of Yorkshire, my knowledge of the small towns in Ross-shire is second to none. tongue.gif
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#38 Violinia

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 10:14

Glad to see there's some agreement here! I certainly don't blame the kids and if a generation of children have parents who don't know these things either, then unless they have enough imagination to drag themselves away from the computer or the TV and start leafing through atlases, then things can only get worse.

I've lost count of the children I've talked to who tell me they've been to France for their holidays but when I ask them whereabouts in France they went, they just laugh, shrug their shoulders and say 'haven't a clue'. So it could be Brittany, the Dordogne, Alsace or the Cote D'Azur for all they know or care... which I frankly find a bit troubling....

And no, the story about children thinking Beijing was in Germany wasn't a joke - it's been said to me by no less than three people this week, one of them aged 11, the other two 15. It was very hard not to burst out laughing I can tell you.

I'm currently compiling a questionnaire for a random sample of kids, teenagers and adults (in my affluent part of the UK) to fill in, age but no name required. If anyone wants to help me with the questions, you're welcome!

So far I've decided to ask them to name

The five continents
As many countries in Europe as they can think of
The capitals of:

France
Italy
Germany
Spain
Greece
Russia
Austria
Belgium
The Netherlands
The USA
Australia
Japan
China
India

And where, roughly, Scandinavia is.

I think that's pretty fair.

So far amongst the people I've asked, the only capitals routinely known have been those of France, Italy and Greece. No doubt they all know Rome because they studied the Romans at primary school, and they must have learnt something about the Greeks too. And nobody except two particularly sparky kids had a clue where Scandinavia was - one of them thought it might be in the far east! Can't wait to tell my Swedish pupil - she already thinks most people here are completely stupid!

When the results are in I'm going to send them to the Education Secretary and suggest something should be done about the way geography is taught. I've always wanted to do a bit of proper research so here goes!

I agree with the people who said it's a bad thing for facts to be presented in a dry way for rote learning, but facts can be absorbed in an interesting way, like giving every primary school child a mat to work on that has, say, a map of Europe on one side and a map of the world on the other. Or UK/Europe/world jigsaw puzzles to solve.....there are limitless ways the learning of facts can be made fun and interesting, so the child absorbs them without even knowing they're absorbing them. I know this to be true because of the way I learnt all the American states (with a jigsaw puzzle). As a child I also had a Happy Families card game that had cities and their important landmarks instead of families, so I easily learnt that the Alhambra was in Granada, Spain. I can still visualise those cards - they were brilliant, and I can assure you I'm no geek. In fact I was quite a naughty, recalcritant child at school who would much rather pass notes and mess about (so what's new) or look out of the window and dream than learn much at all, but willy nilly I did absorb a fair bit of basic general knowledge along the way just as a matter of course because of the way I was taught. Yes we did long for history and geography to be taught in a more interesting way, but I'm becoming more and more convinced they've thrown the perfectly healthy baby out with the bathwater.
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#39 Guest: Miss Ross_*

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 10:23

QUOTE(SaxFan @ Jun 7 2008, 09:51 AM) View Post
And who said education is about skills? It's about a lot more than that. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge for example. Latin would tell you what 'education' means surely.
Education sometimes seems to be a few years spent learning how to squeeze marks out of exam boards - I don't think you can really gain a great knowledge about any subject unless you take it upon yourself to do so, away from the syllabus. obviously, again, I suppose it depends on what school you go to, as Lucky showed.

QUOTE(SaxFan @ Jun 7 2008, 09:51 AM) View Post
And, Miss Ross, it's not ALL youngsters who are woefully ignorant. That's too general.
I suppose it is - sorry.


QUOTE(mwl1 @ Jun 7 2008, 10:56 AM) View Post
I suppose people starting to rely on sat-nav systems is another reason why people have such a poor idea of their local surroundings.
I wonder if not knowing your local surroundings is worse than not knowing the capital city of x country? On top of the sat-nav idea, if you live somewhere which is relatively well provided for, you could probably survive without ever having to go very far.


QUOTE(mwl1 @ Jun 7 2008, 10:56 AM) View Post
And, I hate to sound boastful, but I am starting to consider that, at least for a resident of Yorkshire, my knowledge of the small towns in Ross-shire is second to none. tongue.gif
It's at least second to one, but I'll admit that it is very impressive! wink.gif

QUOTE(Violinia @ Jun 7 2008, 11:14 AM) View Post
When the results are in I'm going to send them to the Education Secretary and suggest something should be done about the way geography is taught. I've always wanted to do a bit of proper research so here goes!
It sounds like a very interesting idea - will you let us know how you get on? smile.gif

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#40 Violinia

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 10:51

QUOTE(all ears @ Jun 7 2008, 11:46 AM) View Post

Violinia, why don't you put a map up in your teaching room, with "famous composers" and/or the route of various instruments tracing their historical and geographical origins?

That should keep you out of mischief for ten minutes! biggrin.gif


Good idea but my teaching room is also the family sitting room when I let them in, and my son has already moaned at me to remove all the guitars that used to hang on the wall because he thought they made our house look 'too eccentric'. sad.gif
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#41 Guest: skylark_*

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 10:58

QUOTE(Miss Ross @ Jun 7 2008, 11:23 AM) View Post
I don't think you can really gain a great knowledge about any subject unless you take it upon yourself to do so, away from the syllabus.

agree.gif

Does current education policy stimulate *curiousity* - the urge to find something out just because you want to know... not because it's useful, or politically correct, or relevant... but just because you're curious to know...

Does dumbing-down stifle curiosity? And if we can't be bothered finding out about the world around us in any of its aspects, does the same inertia start to apply to questioning what the government and other official bodies get up to?

I don't know, but it does make me wonder... sad.gif

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#42 mwl1

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 11:00

I've seldom been made to feel that it actually matters about me having knowledge of many of the subjects that I've been taking, so long as I manage to pass the exam by having the appropriate "exam technique". We are told whether or not things are likely to come up in the exam - if they're not, it's not worth learning them.
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#43 Guest: skylark_*

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 11:46

Has the internet actually contributed to dumbing down, in the sense that has the acquisition of information become more important than knowledge and understanding? Do schools still encourage the reading of *books*, and the gradual absorption and processing of information, rather than just gathering information for its own sake...



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#44 SaxFan

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 12:01

QUOTE(Miss Ross @ Jun 7 2008, 11:23 AM) View Post

Education sometimes seems to be a few years spent learning how to squeeze marks out of exam boards - I don't think you can really gain a great knowledge about any subject unless you take it upon yourself to do so, away from the syllabus. obviously, again, I suppose it depends on what school you go to, as Lucky showed.

QUOTE(SaxFan @ Jun 7 2008, 09:51 AM) View Post
And, Miss Ross, it's not ALL youngsters who are woefully ignorant. That's too general.
I suppose it is - sorry.

It's at least second to one, but I'll admit that it is very impressive! wink.gif




And that is the sad sad part of the education system at the moment... the attitude towards it. It should not be about ticking boxes, and getting marks.
To a point that can hardly be avoided, because some assessment is required, but when that becomes the be-all and the end-all... slippery slope. sad.gif

No need to say sorry, Miss Ross... there are lots of lovely and intelligent and hard-working Teens... thank goodness! Count yourself as one of them biggrin.gif

You are clearly a good teacher of local geography!

"I agree with the people who said it's a bad thing for facts to be presented in a dry way for rote learning," True, but facts are a very good basis to build on, to develop understanding of a subject.

Don't stop at geography, Violinia... this sort of thing applies to an even broader spectrum, Modern Language teaching without verbs and grammar... etc etc
Maths on a calculator without any clue about estimating... 'is my answer of the right order?..'

*curiousity* - a good point, learning for the sake of wanting to know, to know more. Going the extra mile beyond the exam marking system. Absolutely right... a thirst for knowledge should probably underpin all education.

this can run and run.
Good luck Violinia with the survey etc.

QUOTE(skylark @ Jun 7 2008, 12:46 PM) View Post

Do schools still encourage the reading of *books*, and the gradual absorption and processing of information, rather than just gathering information for its own sake...


probably not, as they have been told it's more important to top the league tables and to get more A* - C grades than anyone else...
but that's NOT education!!

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#45 snhs

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Posted 07 June 2008 - 12:55

QUOTE(Violinia @ Jun 7 2008, 12:56 AM) View Post

You really think we're going to have the last laugh? We're going down the same road as America and you think they're going to have the last laugh? An ignorant population, or a population that knows nothing except trivia and how to surf the net but learn very little is in a prime position for being endlessly manipulated - to spend money on things we don't need, to support wars that do nothing except bring misery to the populations they're inflicted on and wealth to the perpertrators (Halliburton, Carlyle etc).

What about ethics? Do you really think knowing about the world around us is just so much trivia for the brain? Can't you see there might be a deeper reason for knowing about the world? Something to do with a human connectedness? Do you see education merely as a means to enrich oneself financially? Why have a music education in that case? It's not going to help many people become financially well-off after all, is it?

Do you really think the best way forward for the world is for citizens to think only of themselves, and for countries to do likewise? Isn't that the cause of all the problems in the world? America going around starting wars for its own self-interest, education dumbing down to perpetuate big business? Who really benefits in all of this?


Right so you appear to fear that by not knowing capitals/regions/countries we are somehow going to be ignorant. So how about you tell us what you want the Government to remove from/have less of on the curriculum to make way for learning about this? Do you want less IT, which will be vital in many jobs, or do you want less history, maths or science? What you appear to not understand is that there is finite space on the school timetable, hence why Latin, Greek and Classics went the way of the Dodo at many schools so that IT and 'living' languages could be covered instead. If I want to know the capitals its incredibly easy for me to find out, if I want to learn them again its incredibly easy to do so. Whether there is any point in doing so? Can you actually make a convincing argument for why it should be taught in schools beyond 'it should be general knowledge' and 'the Europeans might laugh at us'?

What does knowing the geographical location of Aberdeen or that Oslo is the capital of Norway have to do with ethics? What is it about the world that you consider so important? Why is it so much more important than other bits of knowledge we could be learning? The point of education is enrichment, but within that there is knowledge which we are going to put to use i.e. in out daily/working life etc and then there is everything else. I don't have any problem with prioritising the first kind of knowledge and leaving the second to deal with itself. If I wanted to be a chemist I would put learning the periodic table ahead of learning European capitals, if other people don't do that it is their decision but their career is likely to suffer from not knowing the first and the second will have negligible, if any, effect. In life knowledge is a good thing, but you can get as much benefit from knowing the electron arrangement of Neon as the fact Cairo is the capital of Egypt. In the school system utilitarianism must prevail and if that means all children learning to read maps or about Volcanoes and other natural phenomena in Geography rather than memorising capitals then I'm all for it.

Countries must prioritise their own interests, if the interests of other countries are compatible with them then fine. But if not some will lose by it and some will gain. If working together generates efficiency and mutually beneficial agreements then it makes sense to advance them and if at times we must accept a deal not in our best interest for greater future gains then it is tactically sound. This is nothing new its been going on for thousands of years and in all probability it will continue to be so for thousands more. The education system must meet the requirements of the economy, again its nothing new. 100 years ago we needed a largely unskilled workforce so any time they did have at school taught them things that were important e.g. basic maths, history etc. Within that framework it was also considered important to teach them about Britain's heritage hence they were shown maps and taught about parts of the Empire and how we'd beaten the French at Waterloo, dealt with the Boers etc. Now we need skills for the workplace so the emphasis has changed parts have taken out and other more relevant fields have been added.
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