Not United In Their Definitions

, , , , , | Learning | October 29, 2019

(My seventh-grade history teacher spends about two weeks teaching us world geography. She starts off by having everyone find out where our ancestors came from, and then she posts our pictures on a world map with strings pointing to our nations of origin and the year our families immigrated to America. Then, we do basic exercises with every continent. The final project of the unit involves using latitude, longitude, and rulers to find out where we are in the world and where we are going based on coordinates. If you are in the USA, you have to name the state. If you are in Canada, you have to name the province. If you are anywhere else, you have to name the country. I do this assignment successfully, except for the last question. I follow the coordinates and wind up in London. I write “England” as my answer and turn in the sheet.)

Teacher: “It’s not England. Do the calculations again.”

(I try again, this time ending up in the Irish Sea, so I write “Ireland.”)

Teacher: “It’s not Ireland. Do it again. Remember, you’re looking for a country.”

(I try yet again, and again I end up in London. This time, I write “Great Britain.” My classmates are also struggling with this question. The teacher keeps telling us we’re looking for a country. As a class, we come up with England, Britain, Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales as possible answers. All of these are wrong.)

Teacher: *fed up at this point, addresses the class as a whole* “The country you are looking for is the United Kingdom.”

Classmate: “Is that actually a country?”

Teacher: “Yes.”

(On the actual geography test later that week, the UK is the correct answer for “Which country is London in?” My school system is very small, with only one middle school and one high school. The middle school has maybe three teachers per core subject per year with fewer teachers for the elective classes. This means a third of the student body population has this teacher tell them the UK is a country. Two years later, in ninth grade, I’m taking a required world geography class for my history credit that year. We go into much greater detail than we did in seventh grade. When we reach Europe, the teacher starts off with this:)

Geography Teacher: “Who in here had [Seventh-Grade Teacher]?”

(Almost half the class raises their hands.)

Geography Teacher: “Right. I’m going to tell you this now. The United Kingdom is not a country. I know what she told you, but she’s wrong. Please do not write down the UK as a country on tests.”

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