Students in Allyson Geary's ninth-grade class at Central High School in Independence, Ore., watch the Los Angeles Dodgers on television at home. But when Ms. Geary asked them in September where Los Angeles was, most responded with blank stares.
Alarmed, Ms. Geary turned to the National Geographic Society for help. That help has now arrived in the form of the 160,000 geography teaching kits that the society sent to schools earlier this month for use during National Geography Awareness Week, which ends tomorrow.
The week was ordered by Congress to combat a widespread ignorance of geography. A 1988 survey of 12,320 people in 10 countries conducted by the Gallup Organization for the National Geographic Society found Americans 18 to 24 ranked last in geographic knowledge. A quarter of the Americans could not find the Pacific Ocean on a map.
Gilbert M. Grosvenor, the president and chairman of the National Geographic Society, said that after World War II, many schools stopped teaching geography as a separate course, folding it into social studies classes, where it was given little emphasis."Do you know from what major city in the United States you can drive south and enter Canada? Do you know the fourth-largest state in the United States? Most Americans don't know the answers to these questions."
The answers are Detroit and Montana.