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In search of America on a world map

In the final round of the recent Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant, Lauren Upton – better known as Miss Teen South Carolina – was asked this question: “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?”

Upton paused briefly, then proceeded to give a most revealing answer, part of which sounded like this: “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some … people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and …”

When I heard that “a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map,” I was really surprised, because I didn’t realize that four-fifths CAN. I decided to conduct my own survey to see if this was true, using a map with all the names deleted. To make sure my survey was scientific, I questioned only randomly selected people, both men and women, from all over Lauren Upton’s hometown.

Me: “Excuse me, mister, can you show me where America is on this world map.”

Young man (pointing): “Yeah, of course I can. There it is.”

Me: “Uh … actually, that’s Iraq.”

Young man: “Isn’t that part of America?”

Me: “No, not yet.”

Young man: “But there are lots of Americans there, so it’s sort of like America, isn’t it?”

Me: “I suppose so. What about you, Miss? Do you know where America is?”

Young woman: “Sorry, I’m not good with directions. There’s a gas station down the road.”

Me: “I don’t want directions. I just want to see if you can find America on this map.”

Young woman: “Oh, okay then. There it is.”

Me: “Uh … actually, that’s the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Young woman: “Was I close?”

Me: “Sort of. What about you, sir? Can you tell me where America is?”

Elderly man: “You’re standing on it!”

Me: “No, I mean, can you show me where it is on this map?”

Elderly man: “I’ll try, but you have to remember that it’s been years since I studied geography in high school.”

Me: “I don’t think America has moved since then, sir.”

Elderly man: “I know it hasn’t moved, but I’m sure it has gotten bigger. Isn’t Canada part of America now?”

Me: “No, not yet.”

Elderly man: “Then why is there a team from Canada in the NATIONAL Basketball Association.”

Me: “I don’t know, sir. Can you point at America on the map please?”

Elderly man (pointing): “There it is.”

Me: “Sorry, sir, that’s Georgia.”

Elderly man: “What d’ya mean? Georgia is in America!”

Me: “That’s the country of Georgia. It’s next to Russia and was part of the former Soviet Union.”

Elderly man (shouting): “Georgia belongs to America! The Soviets don’t have it!”

Me: “Okay, sir, whatever you say. What about you, ma’am, can you tell me where America is on this map?”

Fifty-something woman: “Sure, I can. Let me see … America is a big country, so it shouldn’t be hard to find. There it is.”

Me: “Uh … sorry, that’s the Atlantic Ocean.”

Fifty-something woman: “We own part of it, don’t we?”

Me: “I suppose so. What about you, sir, can you find America on this map?”

Thirty-something man (pointing): “There it is!”

Me: “Congratulations! You found America on a world map!”

Thirty-something man: “What do I win?”

Me: “Sorry, there are no prizes. This is just a survey.”

Thirty-something man: “That’s too bad. I was hoping to send the prize to my family in Mexico.”

Me: “You’re from Mexico?”

Thirty-something man: “Yes, but I hope to become an American one day.”

Me: “Do you mind if I consider you an American for the purposes of my survey?”

Thirty-something man: “No problem.”

There you have it then. Four out of five Americans can find America on a world map. Sort of.

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