Our government's geography test: full of bias and errors
2010 ACTUAL QUESTION: Tropical forests are being destroyed at the rate of at least eleven million hectares each year, an area the size of Pennsylvania. About half of all tropical forests are already gone. Discuss two major reasons for this high rate of tropical deforestation.
OK, this is wrong on so many levels. Let's break it down:
"11 Million hectares destroyed"
No serious scientist today would validate this number. It dates back to a rough estimate made by a single Brazilian scientist looking at satellite photos of fires in the Amazon—in the 1980s! Yeah, it's a 30-year-old number based on sketchy information. Scientists today put the number at one-tenth that figure.
This implies there is a steady onslaught of rain forest destruction. Not so. There were some bad years in the 1980s, but things have changed radically since then. A report from last year showed a 90 percent drop in lost forest area.
"About half of all tropical forests are already gone"
Why is this sentence here? Seriously; it is absolutely unnecessary. The only reason to include this sentence is to make a political point.
This seems like an innocent phrase, but it's actually very tricky. Note how the test uses the term "tropical forest" not "tropical rain forest" That's because the test writers know full well that most deforestation in the Amazon is taking place in the chaco (dry forest) which is not an area of biodiversity. The wet tropical forests have a much slower rate of deforestation than chaco land.
Another subtle bias here: The word "already" is unnecessary, added to create a sense of urgency. In truth, deforestation has been going on in the Americas for hundreds of years.
Don't misunderstand—I'm not in favor of deforestation. But a standardized test isn't the place to push a point of view. And this wasn't the only question that had an obvious agenda. You can read through the questions on your own here.Tweet
Labels: In the news, Map blunders
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