Blogs > Cliopatria > Oh... the horror, the horror

Feb 13, 2005 8:38 pm

Oh... the horror, the horror

I just finished grading a set of map quizes for my Freshman World History survey. They were, dare I say, a bit on the frightening side. The students were given a line-drawing world map (with political boundaries provided) and asked to place the following 20 items on the map. Note that there were multiple possible right answers for several of the items.

1)India 2)Somalia 3)Peru 4)Brazil 5)North Korea 6)Russia 7)Nigeria 8)Iraq 9)Libya 10)Great Britain 11)China 12)A Rain Forest 13)An Oil Exporting Country 14)A Major Desert 15)An Area of Very Dense Population 16)A Sparsely Populated Region 17)A Food Exporting Country 18)The South China Sea 19)The Persian Gulf 20) Northern Kentucky University.

The results? I don't have enough time to provide a complete breakdown of the grades by item, but here are a few highlights:

1) Size appears to matter. China and Russia were the only items that every student got right. Brazil was a close runner-up.

2) The Anglophone Connection. The small country with the highest number of correct answers was Great Britain, with a 76% accuracy rate. Notably, however, Peru was only a couple of percentage points behind.

3) Things that go might go BOOM. North Korea scored a 69% accuracy rate.

4) We support our troops.. wherever they are. 58% of students placed Iraq properly. For all the Iraq-is-another-Vietnam types, you will be interested to know that nearly half of the incorrect answers for Iraq placed it in Southeast Asia.

5) The already disappeared Rain Forest. This one had the highest"we give up factor" -- where students simply didn't even bother to try. A toxic meme of Chad being predominantly rain forest did spread through one corner of the classroom, but that is another matter, methinks.

6) All Those Pointless Little Countries. African items on the exam fared very poorly, with my dear adopted second-home of Nigeria finding only a 12% rate of correct answers -- the worst showing on the exam. Somalia managed only about 16%, despite being featured in a major motion picture while most of these students were in high school.

So little time, so much to teach...
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Van L. Hayhow - 2/14/2005

The results don't sound that bad to me. Back when I took Western Civ ours was the only section that was required to buy an historical atlas and the professor used it. Indeed, she would hand out blank maps during all of our tests (including the final) and have us fill them out in the same manner this story mentioned. Thirty plus years later, it still pays dividends when I am reading the international news. I should emphasis we were the only section that had to do this. If students aren't taught maps along the way, they just won't know.

Carl Patrick Burkart - 2/14/2005

In addition to being home to horsebreeders, Kentucky is quite beautiful. I recently went to a horse track (lost at total of $2) and was quite surprised. It was not seedy at all. Food and beer was overpriced, of course, but the weather was fine (this was in the fall). There were kids running around, and babies in strollers, as well as the usual suspects pouring over the racing forms. Great fun. I recommend it.

Van L. Hayhow - 2/14/2005

Never been to Kentucky myself, but as a regular reader of the sports pages I would say yes, Kentucky is well known for its horse farms and the breeding in particular of race horses.

Bengt O. Karlsson - 2/14/2005

Well it was better than what we giggling Europeans would credit US student with ;-). And I don't know where "Kentucky" is - I vaguely associate it with horses, is that right?

Jonathan T. Reynolds - 2/13/2005

Sadly, two students appear to be under the impression that they are attending a European University. Otherwise, everybody got NKU in the right region of the right country. India did fare well, with only two or three students not getting it right). As for Peru... beats me! "Edge Effect" seemed to be a bit of a factor, with coastal countries often doing better than landlocked places (though this didn't seem to help the African items). Islands, interestingly enough, were big winners in the extra-credit department, with Madagascar, New Zealand, Cuba, Iceland, and the like making frequent appearances.

Robert KC Johnson - 2/13/2005

Is there an explanation for Peru? That's not one I would have guessed with a high ID rate!

Jonathan Dresner - 2/13/2005

... on finding themselves? And if size really matters, I'd think that India would fare pretty well.

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