Three recent opportunities to highlight widespread geographic illiteracy went viral. The first was a video filmed by the staff of the Harvard Crimson, who asked students at that prestigious university to name the capital of Canada, a country which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cambridge. The answers varied wildly.
Then, Buzzfeed supplied us with two other gems. The first was a collection of blank maps of the United States including state boundaries that were apparently filled in by Buzzfeed's UK office. While the maps seem to indicate a lack of geographic knowledge from our British cousins, I was quite impressed with the results. I think the Brits did better than Americans could have and they dd far better than Americans could have done placing England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales on a blank outline map of the UK.
Not to be outdone, the Buzzfeed Americans attempted to fill in a blank maps of European countries. The results are as pathetic as you might expect but we can't compare the latter to the former since the latter are countries, full-fledged independent nation-states, not the internal divisions of the United States as the first collection shows. Overall, the Brits did a much better job than the Americans but this is certainly not a scientific study, it's just an effort by Buzzfeed to garner page views. Nonetheless, I do think it's important to memorize place names and where they fit on the map.