Atlas Aberrations

Some of my best and brightest students think the USA and Australia are countries in Europe.

So, I project a map of the world onto a screen.

Few can point out Europe. Just a few more are able to show me the USA. Australia is easier, New Zealand of course, draws a blank.

Except for one boy. His father bought a World Map for the house some years before. He’s in a minority of one.

“Do you have maps at school?” I ask these mostly sixteen and seventeen year olds.

“No,” they all shout. “Just a map showing Cambodia’s provinces,” they say. That’s depressingly insular, I think.

It’s such a small thing to have a map of the world and I remember spending hours at their age pouring over an atlas and wondering…

And these aren’t Cambodia’s poor, most of them belong to the expanding middle-class.

Many want to study abroad… in countries they cannot yet locate on a map.


7 thoughts on “Atlas Aberrations

  1. That is sad; most kids I’ve known love maps (actually that’s true of most adults I know as well). Worrying too, since without a sense of our place in the wider world it prejudice takes hold very easily.

    • You are right: it is sad.

      Many Cambodians see the ‘evil’ Vietnamese, the ‘to be wary of’ Thai, and the ‘gentle Lao’ on their borders. And that is as far as a world outlook goes…That is all supposed to change with ASEAN, although I’ve seen little sign of that yet.

      • I guess it takes time. I think of Britain and the EU. When we lived in England there did seem to have been a loosening of the stereotypes of “foreigners”, but that seems to have gone radically backwards as Brexit has demonstrated.

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