Houses along the Staten Island Railway in Old Town.
Who says North is up?
Upside Down maps (also known as South-Up or Reversed maps) offer a completely different perspective of the world we live in.
Technically speaking, even referring to the earth with words like “up” or “down” or comparing places with words “above” or “below” is flawed, considering that the earth is a spherical body (it’s actually slightly “fatter” at the equator) and flying through 3 dimensional space with no reference of up or down. However, the issue of “up” and “down” does become an issue when viewing the surface of the earth projected onto a flat piece of paper (a map). And the effect of the orientation of a map is more significant than you might realize.
As all maps require orientation for reference, the issue of how to layout the map orientation is as old as maps themselves. As map orientation is completely arbitrary, it is not surprising that they differed throughout time periods and regions.
The convention of North-up is usually attributed to the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (90-168 AD). Justifications for his north-up approach vary. In the middle ages, East was often placed at top. This is the origin of the term “The Orient” to refer to East Asia. During the age of exploration, European cartographers again followed the north-up convention…perhaps because the North Star was their fixed reference point for navigation, or because they wanted (subconsciously or otherwise) to ensure Europe’s claim at the top of the world.
In modern times, reversed maps are made as a learning device or to illustrate Northern Hemisphere bias. Different from simply turning a north-up map upside down, a reversed map has the text oriented to be read with south up.
The famous “Blue Marble” photograph of the Earth taken from on board Apollo 17 was originally oriented with the south pole at the top, with the island of Madagascar visible just left of center, and the continent of Africa at its right. However, the image was turned upside-down to fit the traditional view.
While the orientation of a map might seem harmless, it can have a significant effect on one’s perception of the world, and the relative importance of the different place in it.
In speech, we often refer to places being “above” or “below” others. Think of how you would say you’re about to travel to the state or country to your north or south (to go “down” to Kentucky from Indiana, or “up” to Canada from the US). Without even mentioning geography, ask any grade school student whether Mexico is “above” or “below” the United States. We’re all familiar with the “land down under”. As we often correlate importance to relative height (think how a citizens of a country will fly their flag higher than all other flags), the north-up convention reinforces the idea that northern bodies are more important than their southern neighbors. Suddenly, traveling “down” to the South might have an inference much deeper than geographic location.
After looking at the map more closely, you may realize that the South-Up orientation may change your perception of the relative status of different places. For example, South America suddenly looks to have more prominence, and Africa and the Middle East completely dwarf Europe. Likewise, tucking Northern Europe, Canada, and Russia away at the bottom of the map, subconsciously takes away their status.
I just happened to be discussing this with one group of sixth graders today on “How do we know that north is north?” One boy in the back row just looked at me, nodded his head in agreement, and did the hand signal for his mind being blown.
I do the signal regularly, so they’re getting it.
I have a map like this. My favorite is when people ask me why it’s upside down and get to play elitist -“who said north was up?”
this is freaking me out
This is one of the maps I have in my classroom. When I first got it, years ago, I showed it to my dad and I was really surprised by how much it bothered him. He actually got angry for a while. If I hadn’t witnessed it, I would never think it could elicit that strong of a reaction.
I also have a map where the Americas are where one usually expect the rest of the world…that freaks people out too, like how dare Africa be on the right!?
Got another which more accurately displays land mass of South America and Africa, though the North is foreshortened.
Oh yes, these things ruffle feathers.
This map is still biased - it’s proportioned to make it look like Africa is smaller than Russia, while in reality Africa is TWICE THE SIZE OF RUSSIA. That matters. Making an entire continent so small on a map makes it easier for people to downplay the significance of it’s issues and achievements - it makes it possible for so many people to think of Africa as a monolithic country.
you guys need to be careful reblogging that video of the student going off at the teacher
although there are lazy teachers
understand that the issue isn’t the teachers per say
but an education system that breeds teachers without passion and students without an excitement for learning
we live in a country (the US) where it’s acceptable to teach kids based off a program that measures intelligence solely by standardized tests
because of this, teachers are often forced to forgo lesson plans that they create themselves
in the name of just sticking to the curriculum
because their job depends on kids passing the test
the goal has then been to produce kids that can pass the test but that don’t learn anything in the grand scheme
so yes, there are lazy teachers
but there are far more teachers that want to do more, and can’t because of the limitations of our education system
that come into their jobs excited to do good work and get discouraged due to the rigidness of our public school standards
don’t reblog that and think “man teachers should do more”
blame the system, not the individuals who are subject to the system
Philadelphia: High school students walk out of class and march to City Hall to protest severe budget cuts and planned school closings, May 9, 2013.
The budget cuts are absolutely horrific. Here are some of the proposed changes:
- Schools with more than 1,000 students would no longer be required to have librarians or librarian assistants.
- Schools would no longer be required to have counselors, and counselors’ caseloads would no longer be capped.
- Teachers could be assigned to unlimited classes outside their subject area, and high school teachers could be assigned an extra class without pay. There would be no limit on amount of consecutive time taught in a school day.
- There would be no limit on class size
- The district would no longer be required to provide copy machines, or “a sufficient number of instructional materials and textbooks.”
- Counselors would no longer be guaranteed to have rooms with privacy and confidentiality, a telephone, a locked filing cabinet and a door.
There’s more here.
Again, every time I see stuff about this, I’m like “We shouldn’t be calling him ‘Mayor Nutter’ come on guys we’re better than that” and then I realize, again, that it’s his real name. Um, but for real. These budget cuts are downright cruel.
in 13 days I’ll be in California
if finals and final unit plans don’t kill me first.
The SAT is a scam. It has been around for 50 years. It has never measured anything. And it continues to measure nothing. And the whole game is that everybody who does well on it, is so delighted by their good fortune that they don’t want to attack it. And they are the people in charge. Because of course, the way you get to be in charge is by having high test scores. So it’s this terrific kind of rolling scam that every so often, somebody sort of looks and says—well, you know, does it measure intelligence? No. Does it predict college grades? No. Does it tell you how much you learned in high school? No. Does it predict life happiness or life success in any measure? No. It’s measuring nothing.
I hope one day there will be a world where I don’t have to listen to people slurp and chew their dinner
unless of course its a part of your culture, in which case carry on.