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Education Reporter

The Greenwashing of Geography

WASHINGTON, DC - According to the results of a survey released in November by the National Geographic Society, one in 10 young Americans cannot find the United States on a blank world map. While most (89%) could find the states of Texas and California on a map of the U.S., only 51% could find New York, and even fewer were able to locate the seven other states requested in the survey. Only three out of four were able to locate the Pacific Ocean.

Other survey findings showed that just one in seven American respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 could find Iraq on the world map, even though some of them could be sent to fight in that country in the event of a war. Although 58% of the youth surveyed knew that the al Qaeda forces were based in Afghanistan, just 17% could point out that country on a world map.

At a news conference on Nov. 20, National Geographic Society President John Fahey blamed what he called the "stunning" survey results on "an apparent retreat by young people from a global society." He added that the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 "has not changed the insularity of our young people."

Others have a different view of why American students performed so poorly, charging that their dismal performance is a direct result of public schools substituting green propaganda for geographical knowledge and facts. They argue that teachers are more concerned with telling pupils what to think about global warming, pollution and the alleged environmental exploitation by humans than they are in teaching about the geographical location of the world's countries, their topography and culture.

A new study of geography lessons by Canterbury Christ Church University College in Great Britain supports this explanation. The study found that "teachers are brainwashing children with a politically correct 'green agenda' while failing to give them the basic facts of the subject," and that students are graduating from high school knowing "everything about pollution but nothing about rivers or mountains."

The Canterbury study reported that 84% of the teachers interviewed agreed that there is a greater emphasis on attitudes today than in the past. Some admitted that they engage in a selective presentation of issues, such as teaching their students that humans in developed countries must cut consumption rates and lower their fertility rates. Education expert and Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly points out: "This sort of bias leads pupils to believe that humans are here to serve the environment, not vice versa."

Mrs. Schlafly stated that "green geography assumes there is a correct attitude toward environmental problems. Unfortunately, the textbooks don't offer any contrary views."

Young people in nine countries took the 56-question National Geographic survey. Sweden scored the highest, followed by Germany and Italy. No country received an "A," and the U.S. earned a "D."

This is not the first time American students have scored poorly in geography. The 2001 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) geography scores released last June showed no statistically significant improvement for 4th, 8th or 12th graders since the last test in 1994. In 2001, 79% of 4th-graders performed below the proficient level on the NAEP, up from 78% in 1994; 70% of 8th-graders performed below the proficient level compared to 72% in 1994, and 76% of 12th-graders performed below the proficient level in 2001 compared to 73% in 1994.

The 2001 NAEP results found that one in three 4th-graders could not pick out their own states on a U.S. map. Nearly one third of 8th-graders and nearly 40% of 4th-graders did not know that the Pacific Ocean is the world's largest.

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