NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Flunking Geography

November 21, 2002

American students are more likely to have taken a geography course this year than they were in 1988, when the National Geographic Society conducted its last survey of students' geographical knowledge. But in a similar survey this year, the results were still dismal.

  • Only 17 percent of 3,000 18-to-24-year-olds surveyed could find Afghanistan on a map, while 13 percent found Iran and Iraq, and just 14 percent recognized Israel.
  • U.S. students came in last among students in nine nations in naming Afghanistan as the base of the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
  • Of the nine countries included in the survey, Sweden did best on geography and current events -- averaging 40 correct answers out of a possible 56.
  • Students in Italy, Germany and France were close behind -- but the U.S. score was 23 correct answers out of the 56, earning them a "D."

National Geographic is convening an international panel of policy makers and business and media leaders to find ways to improve geographic education and to encourage interest in world affairs, the society said.

Source: Greg Toppo, "Students Literally All Over the Map," USA Today, November 21, 2002.

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