Opinion: Get Those Fake Maps and Globes Out of Your Child’s Classroom!

Have you ever looked at a map in the back of a history book or at a globe and wondered about its accuracy? Have you ever been told by someone that the maps and globes used in schools and sold in stores makes the continent of Africa look much smaller than it really is, while making places like Australia, Greenland, and Antarctica appear much larger than they really are? Well, your suspicions are right if you felt that the maps and globes you learned geography on are grossly inaccurate.

Most of us learned geography on a two-dimensional map in school called the Mercator projection map. The Mercator projection map is highly distorted because it’s based on replicating the three-dimensional globe in only two dimensions. In the back of those same history or geography books, you may remember seeing the globe laid out like an orange peel in order to represent the map more accurately. Well, I challenge you to go to your kitchen right now and peel an orange without breaking the peel and try pressing it flat on the table. Before you try flatting it, draw the map on it, or pictures of your family members on each loop of the peel, then get back with me on how distorted the drawings become. Try using something see-through to flatten the orange peel.

There have been theories to suggest that the idea of these distorted maps was to make the birthplace of civilization, Africa, appear smaller, to minimize its relevance and grandiose, while making “western” colonized lands appear bigger, maximizing their relevance. It could also simply be a lack of ingenuity and basic know-how of the mostly European designers. However, there are more accurate maps and globes that should be in your child’s classroom.

In actual geographic area comparison, Africa comes in as a giant at 30.4 million Sq. km. Second in line is Russia at 17.1 million Sq. km. The U.S. ranks 5th at 9.5 million Sq. km. Greenland ranks 12th at 2.2 million Sq. km. The Mercator projection map, the most widely used in textbooks and classrooms, are said to be the most inaccurate. However, there are several other projection maps out there. Many map design experts believe the AuthaGraph World Map to be most accurate, so do I. There will probably be ongoing debates on map accuracy for a while to come, and some of these debates are likely to be agenda-driven. Watch this short video to further or maybe lessen your suspicion.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Get Those Fake Maps and Globes Out of Your Child’s Classroom!

  1. RE: “The Mercator projection map, the most widely used in textbooks and classrooms, are said to be the most inaccurate.”

    Mercator’s projection.is not really “inaccurate” as it does what it is supposed to do. If you project the globe on to a cylinder with the equator as the standard parallel, you will distort the sizes of features on the map in the higher
    latitudes.

    There are no “correct” or “wrong” projections, they all just fit a different purpose. Mercator’s was actually designed for navigation — as a line-of-constant-compass-direction will cross meridians at the same angle.

    Most social-science textbook use a compromise projection. It is impossible to show equal area and true shapes on the same projection. Robinson’s projection is a good compromise balancing both shape and area.

    I’ve noticed that many science textbooks still use Mercator’s. Most people are aware of the limitations of a cylindrical.

    You could choose another map projection, Such as Peter’s Equal-Area projection, but keep in mind the better area is kept true, the more distortion of shape there will be. Thus kids will no longer get the wrong idea about the areas of countries, kids will get the wrong idea about the SHAPES of countries.

    RE: “theories to suggest that the idea of these distorted maps was to make the birthplace of civilization, Africa, appear smaller, to minimize its relevance and grandiose”

    These theories would be inaccurate. If someone thought that — then Greenland must be the most important country in the world! Furthermore, sizes of countries does not translate into importance. Some of the largest countries are sparsely populated deserts or otherwise unsuitable. Russia is big, but most of the land is useless.

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    1. Professor, while I appreciate your academics on the topic, the primary purpose of this piece is to inform parents and others that there are better options out there for their’s or their child’s consumption. Intentional “miseducation” is a real construct in the Global Majority community. You’re 100% correct, the size of these lands shouldn’t “translate into importance”. Likewise, skin color, language, religion, or culture shouldn’t “translate into importance”; however, people around the world are underestimated, undervalued, and marginalized every day based on these factors (inside and outside of academia).

      I have been “fortunate” enough to graduate from every level of the “western education model”, and even taught on most levels. If I didn’t learn anything else, I learned that “miseducation” is in full effect and is fully intentional. In fact, I’ve dubbed it the “Education Industrial Complex”. Not withstanding, I appreciate your reply to this post and your knowledge on geography!

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