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Take a stand against ignorance with a map. Take a stand against ignorance with a map.

Letters From Home

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Look at your world

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I know a lot of us have spent time laughing at that hapless beauty-queen contestant who flubbed the dub trying to answer a question about why so many people can’t find things that really should be obvious on a map.

The problem is not so much that one poor girl got totally flustered, but that so many people can’t find stuff on a map! That’s been shown again and again to be true, and it’s a form of ignorance that we should, collectively, be ashamed of, especially since it’s so easy to fix.

Get a map!

Of course, the most obvious question is, with so many fabulous “map” web sites out there, why on earth should anyone use anything else for geographical inquiries?  Heck, you can click on Google Maps or Google Earth and find the most obscure corner of the world instantly.  Who needs more than that?

We all do.  Because when all is said and done, if you let Google Maps do all the work for you,  you still won’t know how to find anything on a map for yourself.   Not to disparage the wonder of those web sites–I use them all the time–but there is something about looking at a physical map and doing a little brain work to look locations up that pushes back the boundaries of ignorance a bit.  Try it and see.

If you don’t own any maps right now, start with a road-atlas book for your country. That way you’ll have the advantage of both knowing where you’re going and knowing where things are. Next time the news tells you there’s some big flapdoodle somewhere in your country, get out your road atlas and look that place up. They all have easy-to-use indices in the back.

The next step is to get a map of the world. The National Geographic has some dandy ones, and they are not terribly expensive. Same thing applies: Hear about something in some other country somewhere–look that country up on your map. If you have space to display the map on the wall, so much the better, because it’s a lot easier to see where things are if the map can be spread out and positioned for good viewing. Of course, this may mean that you can’t use the directory on the back of the map to locate things easily.

So, the third step would be to buy a world atlas. Again, you can get one from the National Geographic, but the Reader’s Digest has put out a good one for years, too (doesn’t seem to be available from their web site at the moment, but I’m sure you could find one in a good used-book store). The atlas will have maps of the world that are much more detailed than a wall map, and an index to show you where each country and city can be located.

Ideally, we should all have globes, too, because it’s a lot easier to figure out where those other countries are in relation to each other and in relation to our own home towns if we can see them on a globe, but globes are more expensive than maps and there’s the problem of figuring out where to put the globe. They are decorative and you can buy a nice stand to put your globe on, but not everyone has the space, the money or the inclination for that. Our family bought a big globe at a grade-school auction years ago. Sure, the map itself was way out of date (in fact, it was current as of my birth year, which made me wonder why the school had hung on to it for so long) but on the bright side, that meant I got it for $5. And I can always consult my atlas to see what the political boundaries are these days. The land masses themselves look the same.

So, if someone asked you to find Afghanistan on a map, or a globe, could you do it? If not, then that’s something to take action on as soon as you can. Don’t put yourself in that poor beauty contestant’s shoes. Don’t be ignorant of where you are in the world.

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Author: infmom

Otherwise known as Infamous Mom.

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