It’s not Thanksgiving in Canada (or “appalling ignorance”)

In hono(u)r of the turkey slaughter taking place across the United States on this festival occasion, let’s talk about some good old fashioned American* ignorance. (It’s almost not worth remarking on, since this topic is so old and tired, but I find the longevity of US ignorance about Canada mildly noteworthy. Plus, it’s not a national holiday without some [cranberry] sauciness.)

Those attentive to internet uproars may have noticed the inaccuracies in an Apple map released back in September 2014:


It’s kind of not our fault. I mean, these are the maps we are usually dealing with:

weathermapIt our national forecast. We can’t be bothered about the rest of the weather on the planet, let alone the proper placement and / or spelling of Canadian cities.

The New York Times caught on to the problem back in 1892:


In our defense, Canada does this with weather maps, too (along with other places):

weather network oct 12 2012

However, as Alfred Leroy Burt wrote on the first page of his 1949 treatise, A Short History of Canada for Americans, this pervasive phenomenon has drastic consequences for geographical and political knowledge of Canada in the United States:

American geographies have long shown maps of the United States in full color with a blank white space north of the Great Lakes and the forty-ninth parallel. Nearly as blank were the minds of some twelve hundred high school seniors in the United States when, not so long ago, their knowledge of Canada was tested. Their ignorance, said President Hauck of the University of Maine, who conducted the inquiry, was appalling. One of these students confessed, “I am terribly ignorant in regard to Canada, and all I think of is fish, snow, cold, ice.” And another, “Canada is so close and yet so far away from me. I know less about it than almost any other place in the world.” The plain fact is that most Americans have known little and cared less about their northern neighbor. [It was actually on page 3, but that was the first page of text, so calm down.]

You may be amused (or unhappy, or chaotic neutral) to learn about the longstanding laments over American ignorance about Canada. Such sentiments date back to earlier than 1884, but this cartoon succinctly sticks it to Uncle Sam / Brother Jonathan:


Bengough, Grip, 1884

In conclusion, you can keep on being ridiculous, America-land. Another option is to, you know, educate yourself. You do you!

Also, in case my American readers are feeling salty about getting called out before the turkey’s done, allow me to showcase some Canadian geographical ignorance:



In case you’re worried that this is only a recent phenomenon, following are some historical gripes about “appalling ignorance” and other shortcomings in Canadian knowledge, geographical and otherwise, found in the journal Diogenes.

The issue of Diogenes from 8 January 1869 includes the following complaint:

Education in Montreal is for the most part limited to what is, in reality, mere elementary instruction; and the public show but little inclination to copy the example of ‘Oliver Twist,’ and ‘ask for more.’

It is not long since a writer in the Evening Telegraph asserted that: ‘The University of McGill and… High School are barely solvent, or at least, they cannot maintain a sufficient staff of highly-educated men for the proper education of their under-graduates and scholars.’


Diogenes, 8 January 1869, page 80

Furthermore, on the topic of GEOGRAPHY, Diogenes notes:

Answers to questions in half-year’s work on the Unites States, Scotland, and Ireland:

United States is very subject to earthquakes, and all the houses are built low in consequence. Its population is 20,000, and its capital is Mexicon. Each State manages its own affairs, and has a Consul-General appointed by the People, and a Governor by the Queen. […] One quarter of the globe lives in Scotland. Its climate is in a thriving condition, and oats are their favourite food.

This cartoon offers an example of people talking past each other:

Diogenes, 30 December 1869, page 46

Thank goodness that never happens anymore ever.

[* By “American” throughout this post, and most of ’em for that matter, I mean residents of the United States, which I like to refer to as “America-land” to emphasize the artifice of the Settler Colonial claims to the territory. Ya know, like Disney-land or Chicago-land.]


DB sent along this relevant article from CBC News: “One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship, report reveals” (by Lauren O’Neil, 21 May 2015).

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