As a youth I collected postage stamps, coins and currency and one thing that those hobbies instilled in me was the desire to learn where countries were located on maps. Also, I was born in Uzbekistan, my parents came from Poland, my brother was born in Germany, I studied in Israel, traveled to more than two dozen countries before the age of 30, and consequently have no problem knowing exactly where any country in the world can be found on a map.
However, I have often found that many of my fellow Americans are lousy in geography. I mean really lousy. So I was not surprised when I read that the Czech Republic became alarmed when Twitter and Facebook users erroneously left messages confusing the birthplace of the Boston Marathon bombers with the Czech Republic:
The Czech Embassy issued a statement (1) following the attacks to clarify that the two Boston bombing suspects actually traced their roots to Chechnya, not the Czech Republic, after waves of anti-Czech rhetoric swamped social media.
Expletive-filled postings on Twitter and Facebook were common, along with milder comments such as “So the Boston bombers were 19-year-old Russians of Czech descent… Why lord?” and “The guys that bombed Boston were Czech. What is it 1980?”
So much vitriolic anti-Czech sentiment was aired online that one Tumblr user compiled a ‘shame list’ of erroneous hateful comments. And it was not only social media users getting confused; a former CIA agent commenting on the manhunt for CNN also got the two territories mixed up live on air.
In 2011, the blog Intercultural Meanderings offered the following map which they believe represents what Americans are first taught about the world as children:
Click on image for larger view.
I think we should stop spending $8,000 to $13,000 per year per pupil (2) and instead give our children a few hundred dollars each year and tell them to collect stamps. They can't come out any less educated than they do now.
Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C., 19 Apr 2013, Statement of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic on the Boston terrorist attack
As many I was deeply shocked by the tragedy that occurred in Boston earlier this month. It was a stark reminder of the fact that any of us could be a victim of senseless violence anywhere at any moment.
As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities - the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.
As the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman noted in his message to President Obama, the Czech Republic is an active and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. We are determined to stand side by side with our allies in this respect, there is no doubt about that.
Ambassador of the Czech Republic
NationalJournal.com, 23 Oct 2012, Analysis: How Much States Spend on Their Kids Really Does Matter
Take Colorado, for instance. The Centennial State ranks ninth nationally in quality of education but spent an average of $9,155 per student in 2009, putting it among the 10 states spending the least per pupil.
In comparison, Wyoming—ranked 29th in quality—spent the most of any state, averaging $18,068 per student. Alaska, ranked 41st for its education quality, spent an average of $16,174 per student. Overall, the U.S. spent an average of $11,665 per student.