Only a few years ago, I would have had no idea how to orient Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria on a map, if I were required to draw one.
The reason I am able to do so today, however, is not just because I sat down and studied the globe.
It was because I did so out of interest in seeing where in the world sat the countries I was reading about every day.
In other words, what knowledge I have of world geography was spurred by my desire for knowledge of the world.
This key prerequisite is, I believe, the missing ingredient in solutions to the problem of worldliness, or lack thereof, in our students.
As evidence, I offer the liberal reaction to the 2003-2011 invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Not content with opposing the invasion itself, many Americans (and, I suspect, Canadians) proclaimed that the Iraqi people were now worse off because of the occupying American forces.
In other words, the desire to single-mindedly damn George W. Bush and his entire administration exposed an Achilles heel in the anti-war movement: they had no idea what they were talking about.
To accuse the American forces (admittedly less than heroic and kind) of being more poisonous than Saddam Hussein — a man who would without hesitation kill a man and his family (and slowly) merely for being found in possession of a satellite dish — shows how devastatingly ignorant were Bush’s opponents of the region previous to their attention being drawn there by their domestic indignation, an indignation not nearly as energetically expressed while Saddam was gassing his own people in an attempt at genocide 15 years earlier.
The anti-war movement would not have so laughably discredited itself if it had had enough knowledge of Saddam’s Iraq to avoid expressing such ignorance.
I put to you, therefore, that there is far more at stake here than a matter of simple personal preference; one’s ignorance of how to fix the engine of a car or transplant a fern is decidedly more trivial than one’s ignorance of how often the Taliban throws acid in the faces of schoolgirls in Afghanistan, because our ideas about global politics and morality are shaped by the latter.
And when finally we give such interests privilege above all others, we will finally be prepared to find Libya on a map.