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'Could You Draw A Dot Within 50 Miles Of Your House?': Why The U.S. May Have A Geography Literacy Problem

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'Could You Draw A Dot Within 50 Miles Of Your House?': Why The U.S. May Have A Geography Literacy Problem

 

Severe weather brought strong winds and the risk of harsh storms to Alabama Thursday night. When these kinds of weather events happen, there is usually fair warning by local meteorologists, who stand in front of a regional map and explain what to expect and where.

 

Maps are crucial to understanding severe weather threats to various areas — but what good are they if viewers can't read them?

 

According to one frustrated Birmingham weatherman, James Spann, the U.S. has a geography literacy problem. Spann, chief meteorologist at ABC 33/40, asked on air, "If I were to give you a blank map with no labels, no highways, just county lines and state lines, could you draw a dot within 50 miles of your house?"

 

As an experiment, Spann visits rotary clubs and other venues near him to ask adults this same question. The answers have been cloudy.

 

“I would give them a blank map with county lines and state lines, and I would say put a dot within 50 miles of your house,” Spann (@spann) tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “In most every situation, at least 60, 70 percent could not do it.”

 

Spann started to notice a few years ago that many people didn't understand their local maps. After posting weather maps to social media, he would see 20 to 30 comments from users expressing similar confusion. Their messages would start with the phrase, “What about,” followed by the name of their town.

 

“ ‘What about Clanton? What about Rockford? What about Hamilton? What about Winfield?’ And I'm thinking, 'What is this?’ ” says Spann. “In my opinion, a third-grader or a second-grader should be able to easily pick out where they are and understand what we're trying to communicate.”

 

Spann thought there was something technically wrong with the maps he was posting. But after getting the help of a group of social scientists, he found that most people just can't find their house on a map.

 

Click on the link for the full article

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Think it has a lot to do with our countries lack of need to know where any other country except ours is, not to mention that everyone has GPS in their pocket now. 

 

Also, local geography isn't really focused on in school, i didn't see a map with a county line naming different counties until i was delivering pizzas and had one sitting in my passenger seat.

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The grade below the one I teach (7th) has geography as it's social studies focus. By the time I get them for U.S. history, half can't tell you the capital of Maryland, what states are directly to the north and south, or where Mexico is. 

 

I know full well it's taught repeatedly a year before (I've seen it being taught) but the retention is horrible. 

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18 minutes ago, Renegade7 said:

 

Also, local geography isn't really focused on in school, i didn't see a map with a county line naming different counties until i was delivering pizzas and had one sitting in my passenger seat.

 

I lucked out that 4th grade was state history/geography in NC. In Virginia it was 3rd grade which is where I lived the previous year. Then 5th grade was US history/geography. 

 

No reason tho that geography shouldn't be required in high school tho. I chose to take world history instead. Would have been nice if both were required.

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25 minutes ago, clietas said:

 

I lucked out that 4th grade was state history/geography in NC. In Virginia it was 3rd grade which is where I lived the previous year. Then 5th grade was US history/geography. 

 

No reason tho that geography shouldn't be required in high school tho. I chose to take world history instead. Would have been nice if both were required.

 

Would agree, but what gets left out to include a more rigorous geography curriculum? 

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2 minutes ago, Busch1724 said:

 

Would agree, but what gets left out to include a more rigorous geography curriculum? 

 

Remove one elective maybe. I only had to take 3 social studies classes in high school in Virginia. US History, Government, and a choice between World History and Geography. Could of just added geography as a requirement I think and had social studies all four years. 

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Posted (edited)

 

 

 

That’s why I live in the east coast... 

 

 

 

i think peopl don’t know it because it’s not super important. Now you type where you want to go and your uber takes you there, or you follow blue lines...

 

 

Edited by CousinsCowgirl84

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No, it's not super important,, unless a tornado is coming... which is sort of what prompted the weatherman to find out the shocking revelation that >gasp< the state with the traditionally worst educated population can't find it's ass with a road map.

Unless it's to go vote for a pedophile.

 

~Bang

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14 hours ago, Malapropismic Depository said:

She nailed it.

More maps.

 

How did they not laugh this chick out of the building!?

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These things frustrate me because I live with this insane delusion that people aren't THAT stupid, and then oops I was wrong. Yes, I work in real estate now and geography is part of my job, but even before that I knew where the hell I was at. We studied geography in 5th grade and had to score 100% on states quiz and 90% on capitols or we just kept retaking. My wife, ZERO sense of direction...sorry that's wrong. What's in front of her is North. That would drive me insane. In the Army I learned to read maps well and how to determine my location using features alone.

I guess this does make more sense why people freak out when there's a tornado 3 counties away, hell they don't know where they are so it feels like it's coming right for them. Me, even if it's in my county I'm looking to see which part and which direction it's moving to see if it's even a threat.

The fault is really mine in assuming people are smarter and better educated than they really are.

That's on me, my bad.

14 hours ago, Malapropismic Depository said:

She nailed it.

More maps.

 

That poor kid...did Tosh ever do a web redemption for her?

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Part of this, I think, is an unintended consequence of universal reliance on GPS.  Not so long ago you had to use a real map to get anywhere.  Relying on GPS for routing, you get a tunnel vision of where you're going, without the fuller picture that maps provide.

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Posted (edited)

My wife calls me sometimes to ask the best way to get home from where she is currently at. A lot of times, this is the mall or the movies or downtown - places shes been going for 15+ years. She's very smart but just doesn't give **** all about maps, geography or directions. 

 

She even wanted to skip the Game of Thrones intro because the map was boring. We almost had a fight. 

 

I actually have a higher interest in this stuff than most so maybe I'm too critical of her. 

Edited by Momma There Goes That Man
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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Momma There Goes That Man said:

My wife calls me sometimes to ask the best way to get home from where she is currently at. A lot of times, this is the mall or the movies or downtown - places shes been going for 15+ years. She's very smart but just doesn't give **** all about maps, geography or directions. 

 

She even wanted to skip the Game of Thrones intro because the map was boring. We almost had a fight. 

 

I actually have a higher interest in this stuff than most so maybe I'm too critical of her. 

 

When did just driving around stop being a thing in high school?  Maybe when gas prices started skyrocketing.

 

Cuz that's how we learned the area as kids, just cruising around exploring,  going to new places, looking for the parties Fridays and Saturdays.  Pre GPS.

 

 

 

32 minutes ago, HOF44 said:

This used to be GPS!!

 

 

Always had one of these in the car:

 

5137RC5QDYL._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Edited by Dan T.

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Wasn’t there a story not too long ago that young people could no longer read analog clocks?  The less certain things are used, the less people that remember how to use them.

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2 minutes ago, Destino said:

Wasn’t there a story not too long ago that young people could no longer read analog clocks?  The less certain things are used, the less people that remember how to use them.

 

Cursive writing is an example. Not too worried about that one.. it was "sold" to us as kids as a way for us to write faster. Now? Just type the damn thing. 

 

Although I'm not sure what people's signatures will look like in 50 years. Prob just a line of binary. 

 

01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01110011 01101111 01100011 01101001 01100101 01110100 01111001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100100 01101111 01101111 01101101 01100101 01100100

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Posted (edited)
58 minutes ago, Dan T. said:

When did just driving around stop being a thing in high school?  Maybe when gas prices started skyrocketing.

 

Yeah we were in high school at the peak of the Iraq/Afghan wars. We weren't driving anywhere we didn't have to because we were poor and couldn't afford it. 

 

3 minutes ago, skinsfan_1215 said:

Cursive writing is an example. Not too worried about that one.. it was "sold" to us as kids as a way for us to write faster. Now? Just type the damn thing. 

 

I have no idea why this was ever a thing. I loved writing in cursive in elementary school but it's ****ing impossible as an adult to read other people's cursive writing and I've found it's rarely if ever used anyway. Just a big waste of time. 

Edited by Momma There Goes That Man
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I graduated high school in Central Maine, that Fall I navigated my move to Florida, using a Rand Mcnally US Road Atlas and a highlighter. When I moved to Indiana three years later, same thing. 

Ask my wife to drive somewhere outside of her norm without GPS and I'll get an angry phone call and hour later. Hell, she took a wrong turn USING GPS, got lost and somehow it was STILL my fault! 😂🤣

4 minutes ago, Momma There Goes That Man said:

 

I have no idea why this was ever a thing. I loved writing in cursive in elementary school but it's ****ing impossible as an adult to read other people's cursive writing and I've found it's rarely if ever used anyway. Just a big waste of time. 

Oh but it engages the artistic mind!

Then put their asses in art class! No one uses calligraphy like the monks used it and that was art. Cursive is dead, text is king now.

oh and signatures will be digital. They already are for most things.

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My kids got lucky because our county (Powhatan) is shaped like either a fish or an arrowhead (depending on who you ask).  So, they could place a dot within 50 miles if they just had a map of the counties.  Friday night as we were watching the storms on the news, they were looking for the fish.

 

Plus, I'm that geek that has framed maps hanging in the house.  I used to teach geography to 8th graders and have always loved maps especially old ones that have different borders. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Llevron said:

 

How did they not laugh this chick out of the building!?

 

My best guess is that to the group of people who attend Miss America contests, that answer seemed pretty logically sound. 

Edited by skinsfan_1215

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20 minutes ago, skinsfan_1215 said:

 

My best guess is that to group of people who attend Miss America contests, that answer seemed pretty logically sound. 

Yeah no, even they knew she imploded.

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2 hours ago, Destino said:

Wasn’t there a story not too long ago that young people could no longer read analog clocks?  The less certain things are used, the less people that remember how to use them.

 

Correct, i don't think this is a "stupid" thing at all.  

 

Are there weather apps that show radar with your GPS location?  If not, just make one and mass market it.

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