Quiet please, I'm thinking.
It was with some shock on Sunday that, for the second time in as many months, I found myself working through an English lesson on countries and nationalities with someone who didn’t know where almost any country resides. I name a country and they give me the nationality, it all sounds so simple; Spain, Spanish; Britain, Britainish (close enough); Mexico, Mexicoan (again, pretty close). The real problem starts when a map of the world is produced and students are asked to first name the country and then the nationality.
Alarm bells started to ring, admittedly, when Canada and Australia were confused. Okay, they’re both big and at extreme – by our reckoning – parts of the world, but come on, seriously? ‘That’s okay’, I thought, ‘just give them something to remember the place by and let’s move on. Maple Syrup is from … You can do this … please …. Do you know what Maple Syrup is? No? Nevermind.’ And on and on it went; ‘Vladimir Putin is from …. is from …. ‘ oh come on! Eventually it dawned on me that this person was completely unaware of the world so I asked, as one would, if she could point to her own country on the map. As bold as you like she told me she couldn’t; the ensuing clattering sound was my jaw hitting the floor. The trick now was to not make a big deal out of this as I took on the role of primary school Geography teacher, in my English class, with an adult! I’m not trying to undermine or belittle anyone, or any educational system, but if a twenty two year old can tell me who Nicole Kidman is (but not where she’s from) or what tequila is (but not where it’s from) but doesn’t know what countries border their own or indeed where their country lies on a world map, then I think there is an issue.
Or maybe I’m just being critical, did I really know much about Ecuador or Madagascar twenty years ago? Or now for that matter? No, probably not. But I could get pretty close trying to guess their geographic location and knew better than to think it wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t know. Still, at least she knows whiskey is Irish and thinks the Scots are only good for making haggis. Sorry, Scotland.