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We were discussing Syria. My students asked where Syria was located. I have put up two big maps in my room, one a world map that has nothing to do with anything in my specific curriculum, although it never hurts to point out England when describing the origins of the U.S. government. I showed them Syria. Then they wanted to know where Kenya was. I took the yardstick and pointed to Kenya. I told them Kenya was in Africa, showed them Africa.

These are high school students. They ought to know this stuff but they don’t. For one thing, no one is teaching geography now. They get a smattering of U.S. geography in elementary school, enough to identify states and capitols, a skill most have lost a few years later. The world remains a great mystery, though, excluded from consideration because there is zero testing bang for your buck in actually being able to find the Middle East on a map.

Eduhonesty: We can chalk this one up to the scramble for test points too, I think. Common Core Standards are mumbling about adding some geography to the still essentially nonexistent social studies standards, but right now the emphasis for testing and curricular purposes is falling on math, English, English and math. That cuts geography entirely out of the game in many districts that are desperate to raise points.