Students Are Getting A Radically Different View Of The World With Updated Maps

It’s a whole new planet earth

Students in Boston, Massachusetts, will soon look at the world in a whole new—and much more accurate—way.

In mid-March, the Boston school system decided to make a small but meaningful change to its social studies curriculum by switching up which map they display in schools. The Gall-Peters projection will now be the learning tool for the 57,000 students in the school district.

So why make the change? For one thing, the map you likely used as a kid is dead wrong when it comes to depicting how large each continent really is. The old map, known as the Gerardus Mercator, grossly distorts the sizes of countries and continents, making it appear as though the United States is much larger than it is, while continents like Africa are shrunk to a fraction of their true size. This could be due to the way map makers first attempted to depict a three-dimensional globe onto two-dimensional paper, or perhaps it was a more nefarious ploy at depicting mostly white, industrialized nations as larger and more powerful.

“So this is about maps, but it isn’t about maps,” Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools, told The Boston Globe. “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.”

The new map, known as the Gall-Peters projection, is known as a “equal-area” map, which accurately proportions the surface areas of the continents, according to Inverse. It’s so accurate that it’s currently used by the United Nations.

"The new map really allows the students to get a greater sense of how large the continents are in relations to others," Natacha Scott, director of social studies at Boston Public Schools, told NECN.

Additionally, Scott told The Guardian it was interesting to watch the student’s reactions to viewing the new map for the first time. “Some of their reactions were quite funny, but it was also amazingly interesting to see them questioning what they thought they knew.”

The suggestion for changing the map, Rose said, came from the district’s newly hired director of cultural proficiency, Hayden Frederick-Clarke. Clarke looked at the district’s student demographics and saw that 74 percent of the student body is black and Hispanic. As he told The Globe, changing the map was the first on his list because it “is, in my mind, one of the most insidious examples of how schools perpetuate racism.”

Check out the old map vs. the new below.

Gerardus Mercator:


via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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