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FairfaxVirginia scores middle of pack in geographical literacy

Virginia scores middle of pack in geographical literacy

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Guess what Virginia has in common with Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky? Turns out it’s a degree of mediocrity when it comes to geographic literacy, at last according to one new survey.

The Old Dominion ranked just 36th – right below Georgia and Tennessee and right above Kentucky, for those keeping score – in the survey conducted for Aqua Expeditions, a firm that leads luxury small-ship expeditions.

Just over 3,000 people were quizzed, and overall tallied 47 out of 100 on their knowledge of global geographical landmarks.

As its ranking would suggest, Virginians scored below average, although not by much – the Old Dominion scored 43 based on cumulative results.


“When it comes to international travel, it is a long-standing, and perhaps unfair, stereotype that American tourists are geographically illiterate,” the firm noted. “Other reports ponder whether we should feel embarrassed about our general geographical knowledge (or lack thereof).”

Those who live in the smallest state apparently have the largest knowledge of the world around them. Rhode Island residents emerged in first position with a score of 89 percent, followed on the scale by South Dakota, Vermont, Delaware and Alaska.

Dead last were Louisiana and North Dakota, both with scores of 23 percent.
(How could one Dakota score so well and the other so poorly? A question for the ages, apparently.)

Among the questions, and how respondents answered:

• In which country is the island of Bali located? Nearly half (47%) correctly said Bali, but 32 percent thought it was India, 16 percent said Italy and 5 percent thought it was off the (largely landlocked) country of Iran.

• Through which continent does the Amazon River flow? A total of 59 percent got it right (South America), while 25 percent said Africa, 11 percent Asia and 5 percent Europe.

• Which city is home to a landmark designed by Gustave Eiffel? A total of 59 percent correctly said Paris, while 23 percent thought New York, 10 percent Rome and 8 percent Berlin.

• Through one of the following countries does the Mekong River flow? Of the options presented (Cambodia, Hungary, Brazil, South Korea), 41 percent got it right: Cambodia.

• Where are the Pyramids of Giza? Almost 80 percent got it right (Egypt), while 6 percent responded Morocco, 5 percent said Mexico (not a bad guess, as it has Mayan pyramids) and 10 percent apparently thought the question was referring to the Luxor Hotel and responded with Las Vegas.

• Which river formed the Grand Canyon in Arizona? Proving that even American geography can stump Americans, 31 percent thought it was the Rio Grande River, 8 percent though the Mississippi River and 4 percent assumed it was the Arkansas River. But 57 percent got it right: The Colorado River.

(Take an interactive session to test your own skills at https://www.aquaexpeditions.com/blog/worldly-wisdom-quiz/.)

Obviously, the travel firm didn’t just commission the quiz out of the kindness of its heart. There was a point being made.

“They say that travel broadens the mind,” said Gabriela Henrichwark of Aqua Expeditions. “Visiting new places not only provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and learn new things, but can also motivate the interest and urge to keep learning a wealth of new information.”

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