Geographer Jeanne Kay has some horror stories of ignorance. Her favorite is the one about a New Mexico resident who requested a credit card from a big U.S. company and was turned down - because New Mexico is a foreign country.Kay is a professor at the University of Utah and, like other geographers, is well aware of the geographic illiteracy of most Americans. At the offices of the Association of American Geographers in Washington, D.C., they actually keep a file of such anecdotes, including reports like these:
In Baltimore, nearly half of the high school seniors surveyed could not locate the United States on a world map. In Dallas, one fourth of the high school seniors surveyed could not name the country that borders the U.S. to the south. In Minneapolis, 63 percent of the students questioned could not name the seven continents.
In many ways the world is becoming smaller and smaller, as nations become more economically interdependent and television brings the flora and fauana and bloodshed of far-flung places right into our American living rooms. Yet, as the world shrinks, so apparently does our real knowledge of it.
"We seem to know less and less about the rest of the world," notes Weber State College geography professor Wayne Wahlquist. "Even less than we did 20 years ago."
Wahlquist, who would like to reverse this trend, helped organize a Geography Awareness Conference for elementary and secondary teachers this weekend at Utah State University. Geography, the teachers were reminded, is more than just a study of maps or a trivial pursuit of exotic names. As Wahlquist says, "The brotherhood of man is kind of a hollow phrase if we don't know anything about our fellow man" - if we don't even know, for example, where his country is.
If you would like to test your geographic competence, try your hand at the questions below, which were drawn up with the help of Kay, Wahlquist and Albert L. Fisher, also a geography professor at the U. And don't feel bad if you don't know all of the answers. Even the professors had to check their atlases.
1. Israel today is reluctant to give up the West Bank, which it took over from Jordan in 1967. One reason is national security. Before it occupied the West Bank, Israel's minimum width from the Mediterranean Sea to its 1967 border with Jordan was only
a. nine miles
b. 20 miles
c. 50 miles
d. 70 miles
2. Name the capital of Maryland.
3. Salt Lake City is roughly on the same latitude as which two of the following:
a. Paris, France
b. Madrid, Spain
c. London, England
d. Beijing, China
4. Name the six New England States.
5. Suppose you were going on a trip to South America's largest and most populous country. Where would you be going and what dictionary should you take?
a. Chile a. Spanish
b. Peru b. Italian
c. Argentina c. Portuguese
d. Brazil d. Esperanto
6. What country is the world's leading copper exporter and offers cheapest prices for the product?
7. Finland is a western-style democratic nation in Scandinavia. Yet its expressed position in US-Soviet relations is one of neutrality, rather than of alignment with the West. What geographic fact helps to explain Finland's foreign policy?
8. Identify these countries by their shapes.
9. Suppose you are a business owner who has gone overseas to sign an important foreign contract. Although you would like to discuss some details with your new partners over dinner, you realize that you should not do so on a Friday (their Sabbath) nor should you suggest a dinner of pork chops with wine. You must be in
10. The Persian Gulf has been much in the news recently as the scene of attacks on oil tankers and US Navy ships. Identify three or more oil-exporting nations which border the Persian Gulf.
11. England and Ireland are at the same positions of north latitude as eastern sub-arctic Canada, yet the climate of the British Isles is much more temperate. The reason is:
a. Britain and Ireland are closer to the Sahara Desert of Africa.
b. The British Isles receive long periods of warm winds from the Mediterranean Basin.
c. The Gulf Stream - which originates in the Gulf of Mexico - sends warm water, and with it, warmer weather, to Europe's North Atlantic Coast.
d. England and Ireland receive warm, moist air from Scandinavia.
12. Which nation lies directly south of Miami?
13. This island nation has a marine climate with frequent rainy days. During the Ice Age most of the island was covered with ice, resulting in rocky soils and fiords in the north. Forests once covered the island, which measures 94,000 square miles and now accomodates a population of roughly 56,000,000. What primary language is spoken here?
14. Identify these countries in Central America?
15. Some scholars believe the U.S. is entering the "Pacific Century" because of the increasing economic and political importance of trade between North American and East Asian nations. List five nations bordering the north Pacific Ocean which are important economic and/or political powers.
16. A traveler flying from Tokyo to San Francisco, when crossing the International Date Line, would:
a. skip a day
b. repeat a day
c. need to set his watch ahead one hour
d. need to set his watch back one hour
e. do nothing different. There would be no change in time.
17. As countries have become independent of colonial rule, they have often changed their names to reflect their native heritage. Match the old names on the left with the new ones on the right:
a. Ceylon a. Sri Lanka
b. British Honduras b. Zimbabwe
c. Rhodesia c. Burkina Faso
d. Upper Volta d. Belize
18. Do the names "Russia" and the "Soviet Union" mean the same thing?
19. What is the world's largest country in land mass?
20. The farther you travel northward in June:
a. the shorter would be the period of daylight
b. the longer would be the period of daylight
c. the greater would be the horizontal angle of the noon sun
d. there would be no change in the length of daylight hours
21. Which of these countries would NOT include a large desert region:
d. Soviet Union
22. Which of these U.S. cities is farthest west:
a. Reno, Nev.
b. Los Angeles, Calif.
c. Yuma, Ariz.
d. Spokane, Wash.
23. Which of the following nations is NOT a major exporter of oil:
24. One out of every four people on Earth is:
25. Domestication of the potato occurred in which nation:
26. Which of the following countries is more than 90 percent Lutheran:
b. The Netherlands
27. Bedouins are found in which nation:
b. Soviet Union
28. The country that catches and processes the greatest tonnage of fish is:
29. If you were to fly the shortest route from Bombay, India to San Francisco, you would fly closest to which of these locations:
c. North Pole
30. Which of these countries does NOT border the Suez Canal:
c. Saudi Arabia
31. Match the capitals on the left with the countries on the right:
a. Rangoon a. Sudan
b. Khartoum b. New Zealand
c. Kabul c. Pakistan
d. Islamabad d. Burma
e. Wellington e. Afghanistan
32. What is the primary language of Iran?
33. Which of these cities is at the highest elevation?
a. Mexico City
b. La Paz, Bolivia
34. The Maoris would be found in:
b. Latin America
d. Middle East
35. The Canary Islands are located off the coast of:
c. South Africa
1. a (to get a picture of how narrow that is, think of the distance between Olympus Cove and the Valley Fair Mall)
3. b and d (about 40 degrees N. latitude)
4. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts
5. d, c
7. Finland shares a long border with the Soviet Union.
8. a. Saudi Arabia
c. Great Britain
9. a (a Muslim country).
10. a. Iran
d. Saudi Arabia
f. United Arab Emirates
13. b (The United Kingdom)
14. a. Guatemala b. El Salvador c. Honduras d. Nicaragua e. Costa Rica f. Panama
15. U.S., Canada, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, U.S.S.R.
17. a-a, b-d, c-b, d-c
18. No. Russia is a part of the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)
19. The U.S.S.R.
27. d (Bedouins are nomadic desert Arabs)
28. c (Peru sells fish meal for fertilizer)
31. a-d, b-a, c-e, d-c, e-b