Random Scribbles: Send the troops to St.Louis

[Random Scribbles are my occasional posts of half-formed thoughts, half-baked ideas, and off-the-cuff observations.]

I will admit up front that I’m a geography geek. I always have been. It’s part of my DNA.

I have no empathy, then, for people who cannot read a map or at least ballpark the location of a country (or in America, a state).

So I find this report simply astonishing. According to researchers from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Princeton, only 16 percent of Americans know where Ukraine is and can properly locate it on a map.* While most survey respondents at least knew that it was somewhere in Europe or Asia, some were embarrassingly incorrect.

Looking at a map of the survey results, there were a fair number of people who thought Ukraine is in one of the following locations:

  • Canada (50+)
  • Greenland (50+)
  • Australia (2)
  • the United States (seriously–17 people)

And while this level of ignorance is undeniably sad, it is also dangerous. How? The study also found that “the less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.”

Politicians routinely say that they are only acting on the will of the people. I hate to say it, but sometimes the people are wrong–shockingly so.

So when the people demand that we send armed forces to intervene in Ukraine, many have no idea where they are sending our men and women in uniform. Just like, I would bet money, they had no idea where we were sending our military when we engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a whole host of other actions.

Photo by IllinoisHorseSoldier on Flickr

Photo by IllinoisHorseSoldier on Flickr

I’ve thought all along that our recent foreign wars were a bad idea. Now, I’m beginning to understand why much of the public has also become disillusioned. They must’ve thought we were sending the troops to St. Louis.

*The study is “part of a broader project on the relationship between political knowledge and foreign policy views,” Dr. Kyle A. Dropp, Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, and one of the study’s co-authors, told me in an e-mail. The study has not yet been submitted for peer review.



  1. JCBP

    Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise people don’t know where the Ukraine is. Jay Leno used to prowl the streets of New York asking people, at random, where certain places are here in the US. The audience always got a laugh out of how few people could respond correctly.

    But this also identifies an underlying problem, and that is that our education system is failing students by not taking the time to teach them these important locations. And this, along with a number of other factors, indicate American students are at more a disadvantage than are foreign students who, nowadays, know more about the United States than do American citizens.

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