To truly understand something, you have to be able put a name on it.
So I’m talking to Jeff Gibson, the Opinion Editor at the Nexus. I explain to him the context of my newest article, a treatise on geography, illiteracy and the American dictum. Gibson, being the gawky, goofy-grinned geek that he is, says, “Hey, I know geography!” I ask him where Uzbekistan is. “Right next to Kazakhstan,” he says. “Along with all the other ‘stans.”
We need a new division of the UCSB G.E. requirements – the “Geographic Kick in the Gooch” Requirement. Nobody knows any geography nowadays. Nobody in the mainstream cares about Uruguay or Zimbabwe. And at this time in our lives, it’s understandable. All of us are taking a multitude of classes, and don’t have the time or patience to memorize a multitude of large words. We’re stuffed into a cramped and stifled quarter system, and professors stuff too much shit into too little time. The smartest of us learn an important lesson – brains should be filled with life experience, not just random facts.
So that’s why all the nasal-voiced geeks go into politics, I guess. Politics requires knowledge of random facts; it requires a vast knowledge of the geographic and global lexicon. In order to be a proper diplomat, you can’t confuse Lithuania with Transylvania. You can’t substitute Hezbollah for Mahmoudiyah. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Californians didn’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. I didn’t before I came to college. Or even between Iraq and Iran, for that matter. We are disaffected due to willful ignorance, geographically and educationally neutered from the world around us.
Why does this happen? When we’re in grade school, we become numb and callous to the more boring parts of our education. As a result, we don’t really learn it, and school gives us one less advantage to go off and conquer the world with. I remember my geography class in high school – a 250-pound lardass handing us worksheets, then going back to sip whiskey from the flask strapped to her sweaty thigh. She had a 10-foot-high cupboard filled top to bottom with Maruchan Ramen, the symbolic fertility god of fatass Americana. What a way to lose interest in the world.
This is really representative of a larger trend. The Heritage Foundation said, “The average salary for public elementary and secondary school teachers is $44,367.” I don’t want to be another whining Nexus writer. But that’s crap. Bartenders make more money than that. If we want our kids to learn geography, we need to start acting like we care, and stop paying our teachers pittance wages.
We live in a top-dog nation, and our true leaders – Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Chuck Norris – all valued education. Geography is a prime and integral element of our world, a world that desperately needs better leaders. If George W. Bush is our role model – a man that reportedly asked the president of Brazil, “Do you have blacks, too?” – we’re in dire trouble. Let’s change our educational ways. Let’s learn us some GeoSafari. Let’s go back to the second grade.
Daily Nexus columnist Matt Cappiello made more money exposing his natural features last weekend than he did writing this column.