When Boston public schools introduced a new standard map of the world this week, some young students’ felt their jaws drop. In an instant, their view of the world had changed.
The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?
In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world.
The Mercator projection “works” and works beautifully for maritime navigation up to 70 0 N or S. The Peters projection is very much better for showing land areas, entirely so. As perhaps we’re more interested in the latter than the former these days then why not?
The result goes a long way to rewriting the historical and socio-political message of the Mercator map, which exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.
“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools.
The district has 125 schools and 57,000 students, 86% of whom are non-white, with the largest groups being Latino and black. After changing the maps, Rose said, educators plan to look at other subjects and shift away from presenting white history as the dominant perspective.
Well, I’m not entirely sure to be honest:
“The Mercator projection showed the spread and power of Christianity and is standard,” she said. “But it is not the real world at all. What the Boston public schools are doing is extremely important and should be adopted across the whole of the US and beyond.”
Elliott, who is still teaching at 83, said she was booked to give lectures in Michigan, Iowa, Missouri and Texas this week, and would be hailing Boston’s move.
“This is going to change how kids see the world much for the better,” she said.
Because one way to look at the Peters map is to go, wow, Europe is really teeny, isn’t it? But they did still go out and kill or conquer damn near everybody. Those Dead White European Males must have had something, right?