Everyone is bad at geography

Everyone is bad at geography

Who is bad at geography?

“Why are (Americans, Australians, Britons) so bad at geography?”

I thought about that question a few days ago when some of my Taiwanese students were asking me were Panama and Russia are. The truth is much more simple, everyone is bad at geography. I have had the pleasure of watching educated people from many countries be clueless about geography. On the other hand, I have watched an elementary student point to countries like the UAE, Yemen, Syria, Belize, and Ukraine when asked.

So Why?


Americans being bad at Geography
Americans polled on where North Korea is.

Back in the old days’ geography was part of the standard curriculum right next to rhetoric. However, education has changed. No longer just for teaching the children of the wealthy. School systems are built for everyone now, not just the future natural aristocracy. Furthermore, there is more of a vocational focus on education now and more skills to teach.


In some ways, geography is becoming a specialist knowledge. Outside of basic geography, it does not have a bearing on many people’s lives. The average person does not have a ton of use for geography outside of bar trivia night. We just have to hope our leaders, or their advisors have a better hold of geography. I may like geography but I confess that rhetoric may be a better skill to learn from old school education.

Lastly, as I pointed out in the video people are most familiar with the area around them. With a large enough country, you end up being bad at the geography of other parts of the country. What do I know about the west coast of the USA? I have never been.

Want to get better at geography? Lufthansa has a neat game that helps you learn where European cities are. I also have a map on my blog that shows where my different articles take place.

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