Saturday, June 24, 2017

Perils of Ignorance

What does this map represent? The more you know about geography, the more difficult it is to hazard a guess. But few could guess what it actually represents: some of the places chosen by 1,746 adults in the United States who were asked to locate North Korea on a map.

North Korea.

Only 36 percent put a dot inside the country, with the other 64 percent of answers encompassing a few million square miles of error. In this recent study, as reported by Kevin Quealy in the New York Times, respondents were asked not only to find North Korea on a map, but also to respond to various diplomatic and military responses to recent provocative actions there. 

Not surprisingly, those least likely to know where the place is were the most likely to be willing to attack it militarily. The article includes links to similar studies that have demonstrated similar tendencies. With care, classroom exercises could explore similar relationships between geographic awareness and the willingness to engage diplomatically.