- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ask young people to pick out Iraq on a map of the Middle East and only 13 percent can locate it despite a barrage of headlines and broadcast reports about a possible war against Saddam Hussein.
The same goes for Israel or Iran, according to a National Geographic study that finds there has been little to no improvement in students' knowledge of geography since 1988.
The society survey released yesterday found that only about one in seven of Americans between the age of 18 and 24, the prime age for military warriors, could find Iraq. The score was the same for Iran, an Iraqi neighbor.
Although the majority, 58 percent, of the young Americans surveyed knew that the Taliban and al Qaeda were based in Afghanistan, only 17 percent could find that country on a world map.
A U.S.-led force attacked the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan in October 2001, and President Bush has said he is prepared to use force to rid Iraq of any chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.
The survey asked 56 geographic and current events questions of young people in nine countries and scored the results with traditional grades.
The surveyed Americans got a "D," with an average of 23 correct answers. Mexico ranked last with an average score of 21, just three points from a failing grade.
Topping the scoring was Sweden, with an average of 40, followed by Germany and Italy, each with 38. None of the countries got an "A," which required average scores of 42 correct answers or better on the 56 questions.
"If our young people can't find places on a map and lack awareness of current events, how can they understand the world's cultural, economic and natural resource issues that confront us?" John Fahey, president of the National Geographic Society, said in a statement.
National Geographic is convening an international panel of policy-makers and business and media leaders to find ways to improve geographic education and to encourage interest in world affairs, the society said.
Other findings from the survey:
Thirty-four percent of the young Americans knew that the island used on last season's "Survivor" show was located in the South Pacific, but only 30 percent could locate the state of New Jersey on a map. The "Survivor" show's location was the Marquesas Islands in the eastern South Pacific.
When asked to find 10 specific states on a map of the United States, only California and Texas could be located by a large majority of those surveyed. Both states were correctly located by 89 percent of the participants. Only 51 percent could find New York, the nation's third-most populous state.
On a world map, Americans could find on average only seven of 16 countries in the quiz. Only 89 percent of the Americans surveyed could find their own country on the map.
In the world map test, Swedes could find an average of 13 of the 16 countries. Germans and Italians were next, with an average of 12 each.
Only 71 percent of the surveyed Americans could locate the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water. Worldwide, three in 10 of those surveyed could not correctly locate the Pacific Ocean.
The international survey was conducted for National Geographic by RoperASW.


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