Can you find yourself on a map?
There’s a recent viral video floating around from Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show. It features people on the street being asked to identify any country on a world map. Literally any country. All they had to do was point to it and say its name.
The handful of people featured in the video unfortunately cannot manage to correctly point out any country. Not even the United States. Several times, they name continents instead of countries. One guy points to Alaska and declares it to be either Greenland or Iceland. Another guesses he’s pointing to South Africa even though he’s actually pointing to the northern section of that continent.
One girl scoffs “who knows stuff like that?” when asked to name any country in Africa.
The video, however, ends with a young boy naming several countries with ease, pointing correctly to each one on the map. Kimmel, back in the studio, then declares that children really are the future, just like the old saying goes.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that Kimmel is a comedian, and he’s done plenty of these kinds of “ask random people on the street questions” videos for laughs at their weird and usually dumb responses. And, of course, the video is edited to get the most laughs as possible, meaning that there were probably plenty of people who were filmed but didn’t make the cut because they were smart enough to answer the question without too much difficulty.
It’s easy to watch this and say “wow, Americans must be really dumb” and “the state of the US educational system must be absolutely awful.” But that would be an inaccurate generalization to make based on only the five people in the video.
And from another perspective: you could also make the argument that being able to correctly label a world map isn’t a very practical skill for everyday life. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter as much that they can’t answer the question. (Full disclosure: geography was one of my favorite things to study so I’m pretty darn good at labeling countries. But I know I’ll probably never use this skill for anything useful. I just like knowing.)
If nothing else, however, this video at least can help start more conversations about education in general. We should ask questions like “are we teaching our students enough?” and “should we encourage a more globalized look at learning?” and “do we have dismissive or negative attitudes towards learning?”
Most importantly, we should ask what we can be doing to improve. There’s always room for improvement.
Education shouldn’t stop just because we turned the tassel on our graduation caps and we no longer have homework to submit and tests to take each day. Learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Like Kimmel said, the children are the future. That’s certainly true. But the rest of us are the present, and it couldn’t hurt for us to keep trying to be better now.
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 252-332-7206.