Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ocean to the North

Why is it that basic geography is lost upon many people?

My definition of 'basic geography' is knowing the general layout of the country in which you live, with the ability to locate and identify much of the important landmarks within it. For example, I know where most of the states in the US are on a map, though I cannot point out the capitol cities of them. I live in California, I know where the capitol city is, and I can name significant cities and counties within the state. Not perfect knowledge, but it's what I consider the line for basic geographical knowledge.

I was speaking with someone about a trip I took to Michigan a number of years ago. Making a comment about the differences between here and there, I mentioned that it was odd that the ocean was to the north. For an American who has a basic knowledge of geography it should be obvious that I was referring to the Great Lakes. She proceeded to ask me if I was referring to the atlantic ocean.

This bothers me. Off-hand, I think of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Erie. I believe there is one or two more, and I am comfortable that I am unable to think of them because I am very internet-oriented. Now, I'll do a quick check of Wikipedia to see what the lakes I'm missing are. They were lake Huron and lake Ontario.

I tend to be unforgiving of missing knowledge because I've almost always got instant access to what I need to know on the internet. In real world conversations I become increasingly irritated as I see people that are having to draw upon what they remember without having the vast resources of the internet. I also acknowledge that I may be becoming less able to remember things on my own due to my reliance on the internet.

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