Beyond the subject

American students should be taught more geography


One day, I curiously asked my little brother, who is currently in the fifth grade, some geography questions. However, I was severely disappointed when he struggled to answer many of my questions, even simple ones like, “Name at least five countries in Asia.” When I expressed my disappointment to him, he replied with, “It’s not my fault. I don’t learn these things.”

Many people think that Americans are bad at geography, and I do not blame them. I’ve come across multiple surveys and videos that show just how horrible Americans are at geography, and this needs to change. 

A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that nearly three-quarters of eighth graders tested below proficient in geography, not much different from the results in 1994. This shows just how much American students are lacking in geographical knowledge. 

The students are not to blame. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, more than half of social studies teachers spend less than 10% of their time teaching geography. So, clearly the problem is the teachers, right? If they don’t teach it, then how can the students learn geography? 

However, teachers are not at fault either. When GAO interviewed state officials and K-12 teachers, they revealed that it is hard to spend time teaching geography when there is a heavy emphasis put on other subjects like reading, math and science. Most state testing and standardized exams only include those three subjects, leaving teachers with little choice but to skip geography.

The problem lies within the curriculum that state and local officials come up with. They need to put more emphasis on geography, because it’s one of the most important things to learn as a human being. Students can go through their life without knowing how rocks form, but it can be hard to go through life without being able to name five countries in Asia. It is a real-life skill and can help students wanting to travel in the future or those who simply don’t want to embarrass themselves in front of people from other nations.

As a student that went through the American public school system, I know firsthand what is taught in schools. I’m not bad at naming countries because I studied countries’ names outside of school. I can list many countries in Asia and many more in Europe. However, I wouldn’t be able to put even half of the countries on a map if I was asked to do so. My friends wouldn’t be able to either, because we simply weren’t taught this in school. 

As a first-world country, the education system in America is horrible at teaching geography, which is beyond embarrassing. However, it’s even more embarrassing for the many students who won’t be able to name countries in other continents. It’s time for the adults to step up and push Indiana education officials to solve this issue so future generations will no longer struggle at such a crucial life skill.