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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner

In an earlier posting I decried the appalling lack of geographical knowledge among even college-educated persons such as American TV news anchors. And if they are going to read news, they could do some research to make sure they’re right. But today I happened to be substitute teaching at our town’s high school (which I do now that I’m retired from high-tech and waiting for my wife Ruth to be able to retire too).

Now our town has a great school system, and 95% of our high school’s graduates go on to college. Our town was also named among Fortune magazine’s 100 “best places to live in the USA”. During a free period, I spotted a 400 plus-page teacher’s edition of a geography text, and I decided to peruse it.

Now, I know that public geographical knowledge here in the USA is low. According to one report I read, up to one-third of high school students in California (which is on our Pacific coast) could not find the Pacific Ocean (which takes up about 45% of the earth’s surface) on a world map! But back to the textbook I was perusing…

The text devoted all of eight pages to “Central America and the West Indies”. By the way, American texts consider Mexico to be a North- not a Central American State (never mind that Mexicans consider North America to consist of only the USA and Canada). Of the eight pages, slightly more than five were about Central America. And in the remaining pages, not a single West Indian or other Caribbean island, whether a nation or not even merited a mention in the text!

The text denoted several Central American states as “important”, and named none other of them. This was a geography, not a history, text – so America’s years of gunboat diplomacy and CIA-financed wars weren’t mentioned, nor, for example, the fact that the “important” state of Panama exists because the US fomented its revolution and succession from Columbia to further US financial interests in the canal.

Dominica’s name appeared in a single overall map of the region under discussion – with Roseau shown on the northeast coast! 🙁

Our post office keeps confusing Dominica with the Dominican Republic – as many Dominicans well know. So, we use a US Postal Service Country Code (they’re like our domestic ZIP codes, but international for countries) that we looked up on the USPS Web site when we write to friends in Dominica, and we’ve told friends to use it when the write us.

The USPS Country Code for Dominica, by the way is 152. Ruth once went to the post office and could not recall the country code, but told the clerk it was for Dominica.The clerk kept coming up with the Dominican Republic, so Ruth told her to enter “Commonwealth of Dominica” into her computer. But after entering “com”, the computer kept returning the Comoros Islands (which are in the Madagascar Channel off of East Africa). Ruth got me on the phone to tell me about it and ask me for the country code, and (I can brag a bit, I suppose), I know where the Comoros are. But then, I used to win school geography bees some 55 years ago.

When we retire to Dominica, I can rest assured that Dominicans, young and old, know damn well where the USA is, and can put most Americans to shame with their geographical knowledge.

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Comment by Jen
2007-09-15 21:34:55

Nice post, Dan! It is painful how little we Americans know of history and geography. I agree that the average Dominican has more knowledge of these things than the average American. And is probably better traveled!

Comment by Steve Foerster
2008-05-16 12:45:03

Interesting that on the AccuWeather panel on the side of this article, the forecast says it’s for Roseau, Dominica but the map is of Central America with Jamaica in the top-right corner….

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