If Balboa Could Find the Pacific Ocean, Why Can’t You?


Pacific Ocean map

I mentioned in class today that 30 percent of Americans age 18 to 24 cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map . . .

(This was in the context of income diversity — or “income inequality,” take your pick — i.e., I can’t find the Pacific Ocean on a map but I’d like to be paid the same as a Harvard MBA.)

Students absolutely could not believe this so I Googled the link to this National Geographic article.

Not only was I proved correct on my Pacific Ocean assertion, 58 percent of respondents could not find Japan on a map, 65 percent couldn’t find France, 69 percent couldn’t find the United Kingdom, and 11 percent could not find the United States.

The survey is a bit old now — it was taken in 2002 — but if anything, I’m sure the current situation is worse.

If my kid could not find Japan on a map, I hope someone would give me a good hard kick in the nuts because that definitely indicates a problem in the home.

Gore Vidal has speculated that geography has not really been taught since World War II so as to keep people in the dark as to where we are blowing things up.

(On a related note, only 17 percent of young adults in the U.S. can locate Afghanistan.)


You know who’s really good with geography? My dad. Not only does he know where everything is, he knows which large countries own which tiny island groupings, etc. When it comes to geography, he knows it all.

Does this command a great deal of respect from anyone?

Well, I remember once during a family discussion, my mom named three members of our extended family whom she considers to be “nuts.”

My sister added two more people to the list, including my dad.

“No, Dad is not nuts,” my mom said, “although he gets along well with the nuts.”

My dad said to me, “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever had from this family.”

“That you’re not nuts?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *