History enthusiasts aside, most Muricans can't find anything on a map. We can't figure out exactly where our own fifty states are, much less other continents. And those continents have countries too! Plus, if you had the added benefit of living through the end of the Cold War, then you had to learn all new names for countries. What had been Yugoslavia is now several different countries. Some African countries change their names more often than some people I know change their underwear. In a way, I can't blame Americans for royally sucking when it comes to geography.
I was fortunate, as was my brother. We both had the best damn Honors World Geography teacher in the State of Texas. I took her class during the 92-93 school year and I think my brother did during the 96-97 school year. Not only did I learn a lot of cool stuff about other cultures, but when I finished the class I could name the capitol city of every country in the world and all of the states that make up Mexico. I have since forgotten most of the capitols, but I do know the countries......more or less. So Mrs. Potter, if you read this, I owe you a debt of gratitude. I don't know what you did that made your class so good, other than it was a lot of fun and you were a very energetic teacher. It was in your class that I first started considering majoring in history in college. So in a way, not only do I owe my geographical knowledge to you, I also owe my career to you as well.
I think that in some small way I fail my students by not working in a map quiz or something so that I can make sure they know where things are. I do show a lot of maps in class on my power points, since I like maps. (Especially battlefield maps!) But I don't know how much of that sinks in. Perhaps that is something that I can do a little better in the future. Since it is US History, I don't mean they need to know every single country in the world. But knowing some of our major geographic features in the US and where some of the European countries are wouldn't be a bad idea.
The American view of the world!