Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

(10:53:09 PM) Traci: I’m doing that thing where I’m trying to name all 50 states…I only have 39…
(10:53:15 PM) Amanda: hahaha
(10:53:19 PM) Amanda: love it
(10:53:21 PM) Amanda: let me see if I can do it

Take out a piece of paper right now and, in 10 minutes, list all 50 states in our country. No maps, no outside help. We’ll even get you started: New Hampshire.

To be honest, it seems pretty easy. “We’re educated college students,” we thought to ourselves at 10:53 p.m. one night over an AIM conversation. “This will be easy.” But the brutal and honest truth is that remembering 50 states in ten minutes is really hard because somehow, you will always forget at least one. Iowa, we’re looking at you.

Remember those Saturday mornings we spent as children watching Wacko from “Animaniacs” sing about the fifty states and their capitols? And what did we really end up gaining from those puzzles of the U.S. map?

Looking back on our geographical education, we remember the state and capitol tests of fourth grade, the maps of the ancient world in our sixth grade history textbooks, the European maps in our seventh grade textbooks and the South American maps of high school Spanish. Even so, we can’t remember a time other than fourth grade when there was an emphasis on actually learning and knowing geography.

(11:15:04 PM) Traci: I’m trying to visualize a map
(11:15:19 PM) Traci: And right now all I can see is California…

Geography is defined as “a science that deals with the description, distribution and interaction of the diverse physical, biological and cultural features of the earth’s surface.” We bet you thought it only referred to the physical location of things. From this definition, it would appear that we here at UCI are all students of geography.

Regardless of the definition, all we learned in elementary school was maps — maps we don’t even remember. However, is there a real problem here? Why is geography important?

A report on Social Sciences education by author Mary E. Haas argues that geography is important in order to be a global and culturally aware human being. Without geography, students grow up into apathetic adults.

“These attitudes often develop, however, without accurate knowledge of the locations and characteristics of places and the people who live in them,” Hass writes.

The danger of not linking what we learn to international interactions is the devaluation of the roles of other countries and the promotions of cultural bias.

Haas goes on to say, “When geography is taught in elementary schools, students are not told they are studying geography. Therefore, their concept of geography is severely limited and sometimes non-existent. Many students and teachers associate geography only with the study of map skills.”

In our own first-hand experience, we can safely say that our map skills are a bit lacking.

(11:32:53 PM) Traci: TWO MORE
(11:32:57 PM) Amanda: AAH jealous
(11:33:02 PM) Amanda: uuuuh Scotland
(11:33:05 PM) Amanda: Turkey
(11:33:06 PM) Traci: Nova Scotia
(11:33:08 PM) Amanda: Hungary
(11:33:10 PM) Amanda: haha
(11:33:17 PM) Amanda: aaand Malawi
(11:33:18 PM) Amanda: DONE
(11:33:18 PM) Amanda: lol
(11:33:24 PM) Amanda: aaaah
(11:33:48 PM) Traci: there aren’t REALLY 50 states, I think

At 11:43 p.m., we gave up and compared our lists. We each had one state left and were convinced that there were indeed only 49 states in the union. The 50th was a lie. At 11:57, desperation forced us to turn to Google. At the very same time, a few miles away from each other, our eyes zeroed in on the 50th state: Iowa.

Though stressful, we learned something through this challenge: There is only one Minnesota and Philadelphia isn’t a state (neither is Canada or Mexico). You may laugh and wonder how we ever got into college, but even the most arrogant computer engineering honors student (who shall remain anonymous, but you know who you are) forgot Wyoming. Perhaps we should revisit that States puzzle from time to time.