Maps in the News

Blog Post created by t3g10_JudyBock on Jan 27, 2017

This is my first blog post - in fact, it is my first blog.  I'm an adjunct instructor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL.  I teach Geography and Map Skills for Teachers, a required for for education majors.  It has no pre-requisites, so I get education majors, geography majors, environmental studies majors, and those thinking they might was to be a teacher.  Their geography background varies a great deal, as Illinois does not require geography education.  I try to make the course relevant, but using news examples as I share those golden pearls of wisdom about teaching geography.


On Tuesday, January 24th, I shared two maps used by newscasters.  One was about Trump signing the executive order to exit the PTP.  In the background was a map - U.S. centered (hadn't seen one of those in a while and very telling about the point of view being expressed!) with the participating PTP countries marked, but they were all off to the side, like they were not relevant.  If one is discussing the PTP, wouldn't it be more useful, more logical to use a Pacific Ocean-centered map???  It is obvious that the map was to convey a subtle message about who was in charge.  I wonder who actually selected that map for use!


The other map used in the news - that same day - was one that also presents a different perspective about the U.S.  Can't remember what the news story was - not sure that I even heard the news story, as I focused on the map in the background.  It was the U.S. "floating in space" with Alaska and Hawaii in the bottom left corner.  Every time I see this map, I recall a story from a classroom teacher I once met.  One of her elementary students asked why the igloos that the Eskimos lived in didn't melt.  The teacher inquired as to why the student thought that they would melt.  The response:  Alaska is near Hawaii, and they both are pretty close to the Equator where it is warm, so wouldn't the igloos melt?    (I also explained that the elementary student had two other errors in his perception:  1.  We no longer use the term Eskimos, but instead use Inuits; 2. They no longer live in igloos as a type of permanent housing.  I point this out, as I have found every semester, even colleges students still hold these inaccurate concepts.)


Perceptions of what we know and believe are often formed based on the maps that are unobtrusively used as "decoration" in the background of TV shows and newscasts.  I used the examples as insights for these perspective classroom teachers:  choose your maps wisely!