Where in the world is…
Sunday July 06th 2008, 11:42 am
Filed under: Life

Mim posted a map of the US as seen by Californians.  Oregon/Washington are vaguely displayed as “coffee,” anything east of there to the Great Lakes as Canada, etc. Having corrected my kids’ take on history after school a few times, I burst out laughing when I saw her post.

There was one memorable time, taking a walk around the neighborhood, when there were some teenagers hanging out together, and I smiled and wished them a good day.  One of them, for whatever reason, suddenly piped up with, “Are you from around here?”  (I think I need to walk more often!  I’d only lived around the corner longer than he’d been alive!)

I put on my best Southern accent and asked him, “Do I *sound* like I’m from around here?”

“Where are you from?”


Clearly that was a head-scratcher for him, so I asked him, “Do you know where New York is?  Washington, DC?”  (Trying to gauge the depth of the education deprivation.)

Yes. Yes.  Uh huh.

“Okay,” I told him.  “When they were building Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia both donated land for it to be built on.  During the Civil War, Virginia took theirs back.”

Throw a little extra at him with his geography lesson: US history did NOT start with the Gold Rush!

I’ve always wondered if that kid paid more attention to his country after that.  Given how funny I thought the conversation was, and the fact that kids learn more when they’re cared about, I like to think I helped provide some positive motivation.

14 Comments so far
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I had a friend who would introduce me as a Virginian, which somehow made me a mid-westerner. I’m sure the kid was dazzled that you were from a different country.

Comment by Michelle 07.06.08 @ 1:06 pm

It’s astonishing to me how many people (adults, too, not just kids) don’t know where/what Rhode Island is. Is that an island in New England? Is New England even part of the the United States? I’ve only ever lived in Rhode Island, but I know the other fifty states! And my kids are learning, too. We have maps hanging on the walls.

Comment by amy 07.06.08 @ 1:17 pm

I had a classmate in college who knew, just KNEW, that Rhode Island was, you know, that little island off New York that the Statue of Liberty was on. There was no dissuading her.

Comment by AlisonH 07.06.08 @ 4:23 pm

A few years back, my daughter was studying French at Lynbrook Highschool in San Jose. Partway through the year they got a new French Teacher who was from France. Unfortunately, they couldn’t really understand her French, nor her English, and she couldn’t understand them. At once point, she asked each student to state where they were from. For most of those students it was Taiwan, China, etc. Rebecca announced that she was from New York. The teacher said, “No, you used the construction for a state, but New York is a city.” (Sorry, I’ve forgotten which is a and which is de.) Rebecca explained that she wasn’t from New York City, but from the state of New York. Then the French teacher announced that there was no such state. Finally when every student argued that there was such a state, she demanded, “Well how was I supposed to know?” (She didn’t come back the next year, and it took them another two years to rebuild the French program.)

Comment by Laura 07.06.08 @ 6:06 pm

When I lived in Minnesota for a few years, back in the early 80s, I was a Rhode Island native. Some people actually thought I came from England! And occasionally I got, “So where in New York is that?” Sheesh!

Comment by Paula 07.06.08 @ 6:06 pm

Funny you should mention that. I am surfing the web and and atlas at the same time. (Heading to France tomorrow, and it’s my first time to Europe). I thought I was pretty good at geography… but I’m not. Had no clue where the Netherlands is (are?!) Would not have been able to put it on a blank map. You mean, like, the Pilgrims went there first because it was, like, next door? Duh!!
Ordering things from a catalog to be sent to Wyoming can be fun. Once somebody asked me what country that was in.

Comment by slimsdotter 07.06.08 @ 6:41 pm

I laughed at Mim’s map- there’s one I’ve seen in Boston showing the Bostonian view of the universe- Boston and suburbs very large, the rest of the country a tiny fringe of land to the west. It’s very strange how places you’ve never been seem to be classified as ‘strange and faraway’…

I was visiting West Virginia as a teenager (another state that gets overlooked a lot) and was asked- by a newspaper reporter- where I was from. I said “Maine”. She wanted to know what state that was in. It’s everywhere!

Comment by RobinH 07.07.08 @ 5:05 am

Funny story & true, so true. I have to say that I’m tickled senseless to be living in the pink! 😉

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 07.07.08 @ 5:21 am

I’m from the Religious area, which is funny cuz I dont consider myself particularily religious 🙂
Wonder what the US would look like from the perspective of a midwestern state, hmmmmmm…might have to check it out!

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 07.07.08 @ 6:10 am

When I first got to basic training and we were all introducing ourselves, someone asked where I was from. “New England,” I said, since my childhood had been divided between Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

She nodded solemnly, then asked, “And how long have you been in THIS country?”

Comment by Jami 07.07.08 @ 7:39 am

Haha!! That really made me chuckle. I can’t imagine not being saturated in American history. (written some 50 feet from the property line of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s land…)

Comment by Channon 07.07.08 @ 7:42 am

Ahh, I hear you. Kentucky is a mysterious place for the professor’s cousin’s kids in New Jersey. And Manitoba? Winnipeg? Is that in Canada? You’re moving where?? They say. As if it didn’t exist if they hadn’t learned its whereabouts…:)

Comment by Joanne 07.07.08 @ 9:40 am

When I came to Albany, NY, in 1983, and went to college here, people would hear my accent and ask where I was from. One guy had no idea where Germany was. We are talking college student here. Then I asked him: do you know where france is? He said yes. Czech Republic? Yes, again! Well, Germany is right between those two.
I don’t think he had ever seen a map of Europe.

I, on the other hand, found out during the application process for the scholarship that New York is NOT the capital of New York. 🙂

Comment by karin 07.15.08 @ 6:34 pm

This is a funny topic and we laugh about it, but I think what everyone has been too polite to say is that it’s a sad commentary on the American education system when either students or adults fail to know where states and major countries are located. Our education system is sadly failing our students. I would be ashamed to not be able to identify one of the 50 states and the major land features across the country.

Comment by Rosanne - Firefly Nights 07.24.08 @ 12:39 am

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