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Geographical Ignorance :(


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#1 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:02

I've just been to Vienna and none of my pupils - adults or children - seem to know where it is. Most of them mumbled 'Italy?'

Further (gently) probed, it turned out that most of them hadn't clue what the capital of Germany was, Beijing being a popular answer (I kid you not).

Other answers given were that Holland was the capital of Belgium, I'd made Hungary up, and Scandinavia was in the Far East.

Give me strength.

Oh and has anyone else noticed this woeful ignorance? Most of them say 'well we didn't do countries in geography, we do other stuff.' I've just done some research and apparently half of Brits can't place London on the map. You couldn't make this up. I was talking to my Austrian cousins about it and they didn't believe me, bit sorry folks, it's true...
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#2 Roseau

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:07

In French Vienna is "Vienne" When I first moved to France I didn't realise that there was a French department called "la Vienne" and I can remember getting very confused about where I thought people had said they'd been for their holiday.
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#3 ukjason

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:09

My degree is in Geography, so this is kinda worrying.

What age are the kids though, if they're still quite young you can understand the confusion.
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#4 ad_libitum

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:20

unsure.gif

One I'm getting used to now is Ebay sellers in England trying to charge me international postage... I'm in Northern Ireland - UK!!!!!

I can well believe that the same people wouldn't be able to locate London wacko.gif
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#5 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:30

QUOTE(ukjason @ Jun 6 2008, 08:09 PM) View Post

My degree is in Geography, so this is kinda worrying.

What age are the kids though, if they're still quite young you can understand the confusion.


These are 10-40 year-olds. Yes you can excuse the 10-year-olds up to a point, but when most of them had never heard of Austria? Or thought Beijing was in Europe?

Today I spoke to several teenagers who had never heard of Moscow; only one of them knew it was the capital of Russia. The teenagers who thought Holland was the capital of Belgium (and there were several) were all 15 years old. The teenager who had never heard of Scandinavia were also 15.

My next plan is to make a questionnaire and get large numbers of teenagers to answer a number of geographical questions. Then I'm going to take it up with the Education Department.

Interestingly my two students today with the most liberal, intelligent backgrounds answered all the questions correctly. The rest knew virtually zilch. I spoke to the headmaster of a primary school about it and he said 'I blame the parents' but shouldn't the schools be taking up the slack? Is it really beyond schools to pass on a basic knowledge of the world and where the countries are? Don't they have globes in schools? Or if they do, aren't children interested in them?

What's going on here, in other words? Is it a deliberate attempt to dumb us all down? It would almost seem so. Out of interest I went to a Viennese primary school the other day and noticed all the children have a mat in front of them on their table, printed with a colouful map of Europe with all the countries and their capitals named. What a brilliant idea; in moments of distraction the children look down and study their map!

Oh one more outrage - I asked one teenager today to name the capital of America and she looked a bit blank for a moment; then she said: 'Orlando?'
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#6 ukjason

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:41

That is really a worrying state of affairs.

Geo tends to concentrate a lot more on 'people geo' now-a-days instead of physical, though personally I am a physical geographer. So what is taught in school can be very different to what we learnt. Having said that I'm starting my PGCE in Sept for Primary teaching and intend to make sure my kids get a good geo input. I just hope the cirriculum will realise that knowing where things are and world-awareness is actually pretty important.
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#7 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:44

QUOTE(ukjason @ Jun 6 2008, 08:41 PM) View Post

That is really a worrying state of affairs.

Geo tends to concentrate a lot more on 'people geo' now-a-days instead of physical, though personally I am a physical geographer. So what is taught in school can be very different to what we learnt. Having said that I'm starting my PGCE in Sept for Primary teaching and intend to make sure my kids get a good geo input. I just hope the cirriculum will realise that knowing where things are and world-awareness is actually pretty important.


I think they've gone and thrown the baby out with the bath water. When I was at school (50s and 60s) we learnt where all the countries were as a matter of course; in the 70s they probably decided it was all too rigid and boring so they tossed it all out in favour of 'people geo'. Er, no good, folks, if half the country can't find London on the map!

The trouble is, if young parents missed out on it at school they won't pass it on to their children and so it goes on. Because I was taught it (and found it out for myself) as a child, I passed it on as a matter of course to my own 90s and noughties-educated son, who can name any country and capital you care to mention.
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#8 ukjason

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:46

I totally agree. People geo can be interesting but if you don't know where things are in your own country you can look a bit of a wally.
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#9 ad_libitum

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 19:57

My sister has a friend who everyone thinks is "hilarious" because of her general ignorance... huh.gif


She didn't know what a leek was until the other week.

She was flying from here to England a while ago and I asked her which part.

"Oh, you know, up there"

me: "where?"

"you know, up there at the top.."

So we drew a rough sketch of the mainland and asked her to show us where she thought England was. She took the pencil and divided the sketch into 3 equal sections using straight lines, then labelled England at the top (where Scotland is) Scotland in the middle and Wales in the bottom section sad.gif

This girl has degree of some sort wacko.gif

Oh yes, and she thought "Shorts" in Belfast made shorts ... the kind you wear laugh.gif
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#10 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 20:53

QUOTE(ad_libitum @ Jun 6 2008, 08:57 PM) View Post

My sister has a friend who everyone thinks is "hilarious" because of her general ignorance... huh.gif


This girl has degree of some sort wacko.gif



May I ask what her degree is in?

I'm in despair - do we all realise we're rapidly becoming the laughing stock of Europe? Not that anyone would care because they haven't a clue where Europe is in any case...
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#11 Guest: Miss Ross_*

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 21:01

Gah.... and it's 'my' generation who look like idiots, which therefore seems to make most people presume that most of us of a similar age are the same. mad.gif What's going wrong?!
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#12 Violinia

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 21:10

QUOTE(Miss Ross @ Jun 6 2008, 10:01 PM) View Post

Gah.... and it's 'my' generation who look like idiots, which therefore seems to make most people presume that most of us of a similar age are the same. mad.gif What's going wrong?!


I've asked a pretty random sample of young people over the last few days and 90% have been woefully ignorant in matters related to countries and capital cities. It's beginning to add up to an intruiging picture, I'm afraid.

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#13 Guest: Miss Ross_*

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 21:15

When I was in primary 7 (no idea what the English equivalent is...) I vividly remember having to go home and learn a list of 10 or so countries and their capital cities each weekend, and we were tested on them. Mind you, that was 7 years ago... now it would probably be regarded as unfair to the pupils or something. We certainly didn't mind doing it.

Not geography-related, but when I was doing some work experience with a 1st year English class, one of them asked me (genuinely) if hedgehogs were extinct.
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#14 Hedgehog

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 21:21

Hmm, my son didn't seem to know that Germany was in Europe the other day, a product of education at school, or non-education rather.

However, he does know where Kazahkstan is - and has done so since he was about 7, because my husband regularly goes there on business. So clearly home education works, even if it's just by osmosis.

I remember being given a jigsaw puzzle of a map of Britain for a Christmas present as a child. It's no good to pass on to my children because some of the counties are in the wrong place, and I remember always getting very confused where the tiny Rutland was, but at least I have a reasonable knowledge of the geography of the UK, even if it's mostly the counties. (And I gave up Geography when I was 12 - didn't do O level).
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#15 snhs

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 21:22

QUOTE(Miss Ross @ Jun 6 2008, 10:01 PM) View Post

Gah.... and it's 'my' generation who look like idiots, which therefore seems to make most people presume that most of us of a similar age are the same. mad.gif What's going wrong?!


Well if anything has gone wrong it would be because of previous generations because it has been them who have control of the school curriculum, what we're taught at home etc.

Realistically we don't need to know that much about other countries/capitals these days anyway when most of the decisions are taken in the two or three best known locations (London, Washington etc). The other thing is that the previous generations had a schooling that was still within living memory of WWI/WWII, so it was Berlin, Rome and Tokyo they'd have heard about in the papers rather than Tehran and Baghdad. It has more to do with the curriculum than anything else though.
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