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Boston schools replace old maps with a newer, more accurate version

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Almost every Geography classroom has a map of the world hung up on the wall – it serves not only as a useful teaching tool but as a reminder of just how big (or small) the world really is.

But what if your teacher told you this map was completely wrong? In a controversial new move, public schools in Boston have done just that.

The Galls-Peter Map that will now be in Boston Classrooms. 

Gerardus Mercator, a Flemish cartographer, devised his accepted version of the map in 1569 – and it’s been used in classrooms ever since. However, it is full of gross inaccuracies and significantly exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.

South America is made to look the same size as Europe. In reality, it's actually twice as big. The USA was also drawn too largly and the equator moved to place Germany at the centre of Europe. Greenland also sees a massive change in size - it is 14 times its actual size in most maps.

Therefore, in a bid to educate students about ideological bias in cartography, Boston has introduced the lesser-known Peters projection, which reduces the size of imperialist powers to their actual dimensions and increases the area of Africa and South America to represent their real size. They hope it will completely change how their students view the world. 

The Mercator Map (left) compared to the rescaled Galls-Peter projection (right) 

Colin Rose, who is on the board for Boston public schools, said that “this is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools.

“Maybe we can be an example for other school districts,” he continued. ““It’s a paradigm shift. It’s important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it.” 

86% of students within Boston’s 125 public schools are non-white. Ross spoke of the significance of the new map for these students, suggesting that it’s important to provide an accurate picture of where their heritage is rooted.

In the past, Google Maps has been called out for providing incorrect data. James Cook ‘discovered’ Sandy Island, a small strip of land off the coast of Australia, in 1774 – when it never existed at all. Yet, it still managed to appear on Google Maps until 2012, until it was finally removed.

Maps - whether on a classroom wall or on our phones - determine how we perceive the spaces around us. Boston schools are leading the way to help students understand what the world really looks like. 

Images: Wikimedia Commons 




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