Schools in Boston are changing the world maps they use to teach geography because of—wait for it—European colonialism.
For decades, geography teachers have relied on a more than 400-year-old map that grossly distorts the size of the world’s landmasses — the byproduct of trying to depict a sphere on a flat surface and, perhaps, of Colonialism.
We should have known that the realities of three dimensional geometry were just another part of white people’s plan to oppress people of color.
Flat world maps are inherently inaccurate because the world isn’t flat (no offense intended, Shaquille O’Neal). No matter how you do it, portraying the surface of the spherical earth as a flat image is going to cause distortion in the size of land masses. (A while back, Vox blew this story wide open for everyone who was absent on that day of middle school.)
There’s nothing wrong with trying to find a more accurate representation of the size and shape of countries. The motive here is completely whackadoodle though.
The map exchange is part of the district’s effort to “decolonize the curriculum” within the next three years, said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent in charge of the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps. A goal of the office is to eliminate structural bias and inequality within the school system while ensuring that what students learn in the classroom is culturally competent.
“So this is about maps, but it isn’t about maps,” Rose said. “It’s about a paradigm shift in our district. We’ve had a very fixed view that is very Eurocentric. How do we talk about other viewpoints? This is a great jump off point.”
So is the roof.
The world map you are most familiar with probably uses the Mercator projection. Boston is changing to the Gail-Peters projection which keeps the relative sizes of continents more accurate but distorts their shape. Apparently the do-gooders believe that size matters more than shape.
The previous map, created in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator for navigational purposes, warps the sizes of continents and countries. Africa is three times bigger than North America, for example, but appears smaller on the map. On the Mercator map, Greenland looks massive compared with Africa, which is actually 14 times bigger than the island. And while Alaska appears to eclipse Mexico, the country’s 49th state can actually fit inside of our nation’s neighbor to the south with room to spare.
The replacement map shows countries’ true proportions to one another. Created by German historian Arno Peters and introduced to the world in 1974, the Peters Projection map has been adopted for use by the United Nations.
If the U.N. is on board how could it possibly be bad? The gaggle of tin pot dictatorships who use that body as a way to stick it to the West whenever possible are exactly the kind of people who would be offended by the size of their country on a map.
Again, if the newer map somehow improves upon the old one, there’s nothing wrong with changing. Doing so for political reasons is asinine though. You’re simply exchanging one inaccurate representation for another inaccurate representation because the latter favors your agenda. Both maps are still equally wrong because the world isn’t a flat rectangle.
Here’s a crazy idea. What if we just taught world geography using a globe?