Wednesday, November 27, 2013

People mostly know the geography they need to know

I've seen a bunch of my friends pass around this post, showing that British people aren't good at labeling the states on a U.S. map. They also passed around this (I suspect fake) U.S. map allegedly labeled by an Australian. These friends, who are themselves Americans, are not generally passing around this post showing maps of Europe labeled by Americans.

So what is the point? Mislabeled states looks really stupid to an American because we deal with states all the time. At the same time, getting some of those small European countries wrong seems like a mistake that anyone could make. It's just a matter of perspective. Something the Buzzfeed people don't seem to get when they give an excuse for Americans getting stuff wrong, but not the Brits for their errors: "Ok in our defense, Europe is really complicated." Aren't the location of fifty states just as complicated as the location of about the same number of countries on the Europe map?

Almost everyone (if not everyone) is ignorant of geography somewhere. I'm a total geography nerd, but I can only place a handful of Caribbean countries and territories on a map. I've never been to the Caribbean and so I haven't ever needed to figure it out. I'm sure I would if I ever had some reason to. Most people learn what they need to know. It's not dumb for them not to know something they don't need to know.