Are Maps Accurate? Boston School Maps Depict Africa Bigger than North America

Janice Williams
Are Maps Accurate? Boston School Maps Depict Africa Bigger than North America

Students attending Boston public schools will get a more accurate depiction of the world after the school district rolled out a new standard map of the world that show North America and Europe much smaller than Africa and South America.

Boston officials said the switch to the new Gall-Peters Projection map from the traditional map, which has used Mercator Projection to show the continents for nearly the last 500 years, was necessary to give students a more accurate geological view of the world, The Guardian reported.

Students and teachers were introduced to the new Gall-Peters Projection maps Thursday and reacted with surprise to the enlarged, narrow size of Africa and South America compared to the small and wide image they're used to from the Mercator map.

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“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” Colin Rose, the assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools told The Guardian. “The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world. And when you continue to show images of the places where people’s heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students.”

The Mercator map has long been considered controversial due to its exaggerated depiction of Europe, which Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator placed in the center of the map, and North America.

Nations are also depicted inaccurately on Mercator Projection maps, including Greenland, which looks nearly the size of Africa on Mercator Projection maps when in reality the country is about 14 times smaller, and Alaska, which is pictured bigger than Mexico. And Mercator's incorrectly placed equator means that Germany, which should in the the north, is placed dead center on the world map.

Boston, which is the first city in the nation to phase out Mercator Projection maps, introduced the Gall-Peters Projection map to one grade level in 600 elementary, middle and high schools, and will eventually be implemented in all grades. Mercator Projection maps will not be removed from classrooms but instead will be used to show comparisons and differences of world views over time.

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