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Crimea and Ukraine, April Fools, and Alarming Statistics

April Fool’s found me sifting through my son’s annual barrage of pranks (forgive me if you received an email with the signature “Czar of the World” as my title).  It was my Duquesne students who trumped him this year.  I have several students from China in my evening class.  We were covering the history of Islam and I decided to approach it from the microcosm of the history of Crimea (the week before we had taken a survey and only 12 of 63 students knew where it was or even why I would be asking). The students were working in groups and covering different time periods in a common Google Presentation.  Soon after the Ottoman Crimean Khanate began, a slide popped up to explain the 1540 Chinese invasion of Crimea. Three of the young men from China collapsed into giggles and announced “April Fool.”  Hilarious!

Not so hilarious is how few of the adults I’ve talked to recently know about Crimea and the Ukraine.  I know we are all parents, and focused mostly on local news, but how are we missing the international headlines?  A recent Washington Post article posted the below map of the places where Americans thought the Ukraine was.

Greenland?  Brazil?  Really?  But the really alarming news in the article was that the less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.  About one in six (16 percent) Americans surveyed correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders. Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off — roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles — locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.  The foreign policy correlation was statistically significant, the farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

How do we raise a generation that somehow tunes into international headlines and shapes their civic involvement accordingly?  When do we begin to introduce habits to our kids to check in with international news?  Do you know where Crimea and Ukraine are?

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