Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Is Our Children Learning?

New study out: A whole lotta American kids don't pay attention to stuff. We'll file this with the "thank you captain obvious" brand of studies that elicit a response of "DUH." Glad I can still hit 100% on the MSNBC Quiz. (Though the last question should have been "Are you still a nerd?" Yup.)

I am reminded fondly of the year I worked in the UGA Map Room, deep in the bowels of Boyd Hall. Young Freshmen from Atlanta would come in, chasing geography assignments and hoping I'd do their work for them. The best one?

Student: "We're looking for the deepest part of the ocean."
Me: "Here's a map of the Pacific Ocean, you'll find it on this map."

-five minutes elapse-

Student: "Excuse me, what part of this map is the Pacific Ocean?"
Me. Incredulous: "Umm. The whole thing. That's why it says 'Pacific Ocean' at the top of the map."

(What I should have said: "The Blue Part.")


lagnsfit said...

When I was in high school working at McDonalds I once had a kid (probably 8 or 9) come in and ask where he was at. Trying to be funny I said "McDonalds" and before I could actually tell him Brunswick he bolted out the door. About 2 minutes later he came back in and clarified his question by asking what city he was in. His parents didn't look to impressed when they came in later but I got a kick out of it.

petallic said...

My 7th grade Geography teacher was a member of the Flat Earth Society. I kid you not.

S.A.W.B. said...

100% here too...but those weren't that hard...

Laddi said...

pat, please tell me you gave the kid a topographic (or political) map instead of a nautical chart. And btw, was Tom still there when you worked in the map dungeon?

I admit it, I missed the solomon island question, but honestly, I'm not a history buff (I'm sure they have something to do with WWII). So I got 9 of 10.

patsbrother said...

I think kids should have one class a day where they learn only by rote. It worked for all those people a century ago learning Greek and Latin, can it really hurt for verb, prepositional phrase, and Angola?

But, I will admit, learning is relative. The first time I saw Stone Mountain since I was five (?), I asked why anyone would create a pile of dirt that large. It was off in the distance, it was tan, it looked like those other mysterious dirt/sand heaps you see off the highway occasionally. (There was one on 316 between Atlanta and Athens for a long time, as well as one on Hwy 1 in between Thompson and I-60.)

Oh, but sadly I can't say this national ignorance is limited to geography. Two quotes from the back of the Coliseum at the Gorbachev speech back in the nineties: "So, who is this guy and why are we here?" and, different speaker, "Carter...Was he President?"

Perhaps the most freightening to me was an informal poll I took among my friends, all then in college, largely all in grad school now. Name the years of the Reagan administration. I would have given it to them if they could at least name the election years. In the end, out of about twenty, only one was successful.

It disturbs me when (intelligent) people don't even know who was President when during their lifetimes.

Dante said...

510 people? Wow, they really outdid themselves finding an accurate sampling.

About that quiz, 90% here (stupid state capitals). How could I know the location of the Solomon Islands but not know the capital of Kentucky? Because I don't care about state capitals. Aside from visiting the one in Texas, I've never been to a capital building. I've never had the desire to sit in on the state legislature. Why on earth do I care which city is a state's capital? Expecially a state I don't live in. Interesting questions though.

How many kids who have been to Louisiana can't find it on a map? Kids by and large don't care about places they've never been (except for maybe Orlando). If you want to get kids interested in geography, start with their local area.

Dante said...

Crap, I meant capitOL. Stupid lack of editing posts.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Lagnsfit: I can only see that kid going back to the car and telling Mommy and Daddy they were at McDonalds. Then again, anyone who ends up in Brunswick who didn't mean to go there...you gotta wonder.

Laddi: Oh yeah, it was the standard map, National Geographic style, with big fonts. & Tom did work there at the time.

& yes, the Solomons did have a few things to do with that whole WWII stuff. (Tell me you've heard of Guadalcanal)

petallic said...

I'll fess up. I've been to entire countries I'd have a hard time pinpointing on a map if it weren't labeled. Whether I've been there or not makes little difference.

It's not about apathy for me; I just have no spatial sense whatsoever. Standing in Five Points in Athens, I can't point which way Aderhold would be. Seriously.

Patsbrother thinks it's hilarious to leave me directions on voicemail like, "Go to the southwest corner of blah blah and blah blah..." Might as well be speaking Yiddish. I have tried for years to improve this deficiency and to little avail. I've gotten the tiniest bit better, but that's not saying much considering I worked at the Chattanooga Times for two years as a teenager (only going once a month, but still) and I didn't actually learn how to get there 'til my friend forced me to drive the route myself...alone...multiple times. And I'm from Chattanooga.

This thing goes deeper than my wacky 7th grade Geography teacher. Geography and directionality just aren't gifts that I possess.