Can you name the landlocked country that borders Botswana and South Africa?
The answer is Zimbabwe. Maybe you couldn’t get it, but chances are, contestants in the National Geographic Bee would.
The 25th annual event is in the nation’s capital this week, and the Bee’s moderator, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek said on Thursday’s The Daily Rundown that geography is more important than ever for students to master, even as it continues to be underfunded in education.
“Americans are woefully ignorant when it comes to geography,” said Trebek.
A recent study by the Department of Education showed that just 21% of fourth-graders, 27% of eighth-graders, and 20% of twelfth-graders performed at or above the “Proficient” level on the 2010 geography assessment.
Trebek said that “geography is neglected” in most U.S. curriculum programs, is the only one of the nine core subjects listed in the No Child Left Behind Act that remains unfunded, and is often folded into a broader “social studies” or history class.
“It should be its own [subject] but so far it hasn’t succeeded because it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves,” said Trebek.
The subject is increasingly important as global society becomes more interconnected, and the study of geography can provide a richer understanding of the environment, history, war politics, trade, and foreign relations.
One of the goals of the annual National Geographic Bee? Trebek hopes that it will bring much needed attention to the teaching of geography in American schools.