By David Leveille
Boston’s public schools have adopted new world maps for some of their classrooms.
The new maps replace the traditional, rectangular maps made using the 16th-century Mercator Projection method that was introduced back when Europe ruled — and exploited — much of the world. Mercator world maps emphasize the colonial-era Atlantic Ocean trade routes and distort the relative sizes of continents.
Other distortions inherent in the Mercator Projection display a kind of territorial superiority. Simply put, predominantly-white countries are huge seeming, while nonwhite-majority countries are rather small, in comparison.
Social studies classrooms in Boston are now getting maps drawn using the Gall-Peters Projection.
In other words, these maps show countries, continents and oceans according to their actual size and location.
The most glaring distortion on the Mercator map, says Frederick-Clarke, is the size of Africa. “Greenland looks about the same size as Africa, the United States looks like it’s comparable in size, and we know that is absolutely not true.
Frederick-Clarke says Boston social studies teachers now have a map that better reflects the reality, and in turn, the diverse student body.
Listen to audio
Video: How Western European countries downplay size of Africa
Video: Boston schools to replace classic world map