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Baker Lake, Nunavut
March 11th, 2009

I just got finished updating the map, which necessitated figuring out how I created it in the first place. This has been on my to-do list for a long time but I was spurred on to get it done by a request from one of my wholesale customers. She sold a chart to someone who lives in Baker Lake, Nunavut, who was very anxious to have his own X on the map. Although the map really reflects the locations I’ve sold to directly, I was happy to fake up something for someone living in such an out-of-the-way place.

Map of Baker Lake, Nunavut

Have you ever heard of Nunavut? If so, you must be Canadian (or better at geography than I am). It turns out that it was only separated from the Northwest Territories (which I have heard of) in 1999, so I have a little bit of an excuse.

My main excuse for being so ignorant of geography is that I was in grade school during the cold war and what we had was military-industrial geography. Our textbook took the same approach to each country we studied: first, how many square miles it was. Then, since they realized that didn’t convey much, they would superimpose an outline of the country on an outline of whatever part of the US it was closest in size to. This was supposed to make it fun. But knowing that Remotistan is about the same size as Nebraska also doesn’t convey anything (except maybe a veiled suggestion that Remotistan sure doesn’t amount to much; countries that got compared to Rhode Island were obviously ridiculous). They would tell us what language or languages were spoken there — if it wasn’t English, there was an implication that the residents had got it wrong. We covered the form of government they had: democracy (correct) or other (incorrect). Then they would get down to a list of the products considered useful to the US. This always seemed to be grains and metals and minerals, no finished goods. The implication seemed to be that yes, the country might make precision-engineered cars or fine linens or fancy chocolates, but whatever they made, we could do it better. Sometimes they had a picture of apple-cheeked children in funny clothes, but that was about IT. I suppose we were shown where the country fit on the world map, but if you haven’t absorbed the location of country A, learning that country B is just to the east of it doesn’t help. (You can’t explain what chicken-fried steak is to someone who doesn’t know what chicken-fried chicken is.) It was really quite ugly and in a way I’m glad I didn’t learn anything. I certainly hope that geography is no longer being taught that way. But bit by bit, I’m filling in the gaps, and I’m glad to know where Nunavut is!

3 Responses to “Baker Lake, Nunavut”
  1. From Alanna
    11 years, 6 months ago

    Amen to that! I’m really glad that, generally, countries are taking their heads out of their own butts (excuse my French) and realising there’s a whole big world out there that’s just as good and, shock, maybe even better than the little corner we come from! I reckon a stay overseas should be compulsory for all students as part of their degree, funded by some organisation for happy global understanding. But then, I am a translator!!

  2. From rifestitch
    11 years, 6 months ago

    That must be the way I was taught it, too – I never had a geography-only class, it was always in conjunction with history – which is why my knowledge of Europe far exceeded that of any other country except my own. And then I started reading historical fiction, and study maps – but I have to have the area or country in context to retain it. Telling me the size, imports/exports, and countries it borders will stick until the test is over. I’ve learned more English & Scottish geography reading about the Tudors than I did in the 2 years I lived there :)

    Wow, that’s chauvinistic in a whole different way! I estimate that the number of countries we touched on in ALL the history courses I ever took in grade school or high school was less than 15. I do retain a few shreds of geography of countries that never came up in any history classes so I’m amazed to discover that I could have learned even less geography than I did.

  3. From Katie
    11 years, 6 months ago

    I was once told that most of world history was written by dead, white, European males. Sometimes I tend to agree.

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