Sunday, 26 February 2012

Something to be Thankful for

My daughter recently came back from school, disgusted. "There was this lecture," she told me, "on polio. And the people who gave it were great, but they made a lot of mistakes."

My daughter knows about as much about polio as I do, so this surprised me. "What kind of mistakes?"

"They had this map," she said, "of all the places where polio is still active."

"And it was wrong?"  Because really, how would she know it was wrong?

"There were lines pointing to the countries," my daughter told me patiently. "And they had Afghanistan as Pakistan!"

"Well, they are pretty close," I said, desperately trying to remember which was where.

"Fair enough," my daughter acknowledged. "Afghanistan and Pakistan are close. But how about this?" Her eyes flashed. "They had Nigeria labeled as Afghanistan!"


"Yeah, wow."

"So what did you do?"

"I pointed it out to them--" she paused, correctly interpreting my worried expression "--very politely and not in a know-it-all way."

"Good for you," I said, relieved. "What did they say?"

"That they were just testing us to make sure we knew our geography."

I nodded. I do this all the time myself whenever I'm caught out on an error in class; it's a trick of the trade.  "I do that too," I said. "My students are always catching me out on details, and I tell them I was just testing them."

My daughter rolled her eyes, not buying it any more than my students buy it when I screw up. "Sure. But come on--Nigeria as Afghanistan? That's unforgivable."

She's right, but it's also a little comforting:  I may struggle to remember whether Pakistan or Afghanistan is further west, but thank God I'm not so daft as to get Nigeria confused with Afghanistan.  That's something to be thankful for.

There's always something to be thankful for. Always. Never mind all those other things.

While I'm counting my blessings, here's another: I've got a daughter who knows the difference between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and cares about which is which -- and she knows how to point it out politely to people who've got it wrong. Never mind that she lost all her chemistry notes, has failed to turn in two essays, and cannot be pried away from her fan fiction.

Yep, there's always something to be thankful for.


Lisa Shafer said...

Good for her.
I have my 7th graders work on politely correcting adults who may be writing or talking faster than they're thinking. I have a habit, for example, of writing words twice when I'm talking and writing on the board at the same time. I praise the kids when they are able to correct me politely.
However, I'd like to think that if I needed to make a presentation involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria -- or anywhere else -- that I'd actually LOOK at a map BEFORE I put it up on a screen for kids to see it.
And, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I could find Pakistan on an unlabeled map on the first try, and I KNOW I wouldn't mix up Afghanistan and Nigeria (Hello! Different continents!), but I'm not sure I could pick out EXACTLY where each of those two were without looking at a map. Sigh. But at least I know my own limits, eh?
(goes off to look at a world map to find Nigeria.....)

Robin said...

That's just wonderful! What a cool kid. I love the way she was so passionate about it, and yet managed to be polite to the geography challenged teacher. I would never even ask my dimwitted boys to point out Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Nigeria. It would surely be a depressing disaster.

Kit said...

Well done her - I'm not surprised your well-travelled girls are confident about where countries are in the world, but it is a useful skill pointing out errors politely. Out 13 yr old has been working on that for several years!

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, I think I could catch the Nigeria/Afghanistan mistake even myself.

JLD said...

You mean to tell me that Afghanistan isn't the capital of Nigeria? Oh, man, now I have to go buy a globe.

Great post, Mary, and applause for your daughter for not only knowing her geography (my worst subject by far) but also offering the correction in a polite manner.


Aledys Ver said...

Good for you daughter that she knows the difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan, that she dares to speak up and that she can do it politely! :D Tell her I will remember her way of dealing with this next time I have to tell someone here in the NL that no, in Argentina and Brazil we do NOT speak Latin even though both countries are in Latin America :D

Bish Denham said...

OMG! It's hard to believe they got Nigeria and Afghanistan wrong! I mean they are on two entirely different continents. But good for you daughter being brave enough to speak out. So many teens (and adults) are hesitant to speak up if they think something is wrong. It's like, well, they're the ones up there teaching, they must know what they're talking about....

Mirka Breen said...

Since I am known as Miss Typo, I am not harsh in tone when noting a mis-label or mis-spelling. But this was a gross miss.
You have two things to be thankful for- a daughter who knew better, and a daughter who pointed it out POLITELY. Yay, daughter!

Marian Perera said...

I knew someone who once labeled the entire continent of Africa as India. What? They're both kind of triangular, and they have this little island near the bottom...

Mary Witzl said...

Good for YOU! Learning how to let people know POLITELY that you're listening to them and expect their utterances be worthy of your attention -- and factual -- is a good thing. Kids will find a lot of uses for this in life.

I'm okay with Pakistan too, but that's just because I know where it is in relation to other countries. I'm not sure I'd recognize the shape of it if it weren't in the context of surrounding countries. But like you, I would double check the location if I was going to put it up on the wall for kids to see.

Robin -- Your boys might surprise you. Tell them about Sporcle and Free Rice -- those are the sites where we found all our geography knowledge. Learning stuff is much more interesting when you can do it while fooling around.

Kit -- It's hard teaching kids this, isn't it? Nobody likes a smart aleck who is just itching to point out their infelicities.

Charles -- Me too. It's reassuring to be well above average, isn't it?

JLD -- The good thing about knowing geography is that when you meet people from those countries, they're always so happy to find people who can point out their countries on the map or come up with the capital cities. And it makes us Americans look smarter and less xenophobic too, so win-win.

Aledys -- Please tell me that no one SERIOUSLY thinks people in Argentina (or anywhere else in Latin America) speak Latin!? They're not joking with you? I met a man from Mauritius once. He was so tired of telling people where that was; whenever he met someone who actually knew, he almost wept with joy.

Bish -- It's so true: if a teacher says something, there is a tendency not to question it. When my own students catch me out on something I've gotten wrong, it's always embarrassing, but I make it a point to thank them profusely. I'd hate it even more if people left my class with the wrong information all because someone was too timid to point out my mistake.

Mirka -- I don't tend to make typos, but I am the Queen of Malapropisms and frequently slip up when speaking and get people's names wrong. So I'm not overly judgmental myself when I find that someone else has slipped up. This was a proper presentation and they had the chance to check their facts -- but at least they took my daughter's correction with good grace. I give them a lot of credit for that!

Marian -- I hope you set him straight!

A friend of my daughter's (smart boy, good at physics) revealed to us that he 1) did not know Japan had been part of the Axis, and 2) was indeed in ASIA. He knows the difference now.