U.S. News


Boston Public Schools Are Ditching The Classic World Map

The schools are retiring the common Mercator map, which made North America and Europe appear bigger than they are.
Posted at 12:42 PM, Mar 21, 2017

The Boston public school district is changing the maps in its classrooms.

The district previously used the Mercator map, which makes North America and Europe appear bigger than they are. Critics say it's biased toward former imperialist nations.

Take Greenland, for example. On the map, it's about the same size as Africa, even though it's really 14 times smaller.

It's not like 16th-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator was trying to mislead you. When a 3-D world is projected on a 2-D piece of paper, some truth is sacrificed.

The benefit of the Mercator was the way its grid-system guided sailors, but that kind of navigation isn't needed anymore because of airplanes and GPS.

The Boston district is switching to the Gall-Peters map, also known as the Gall-Peters projection. It shows the continents in their true proportions.

But some cartographers say the Gall-Peters projection is misleading in a different way because the shapes of the continents are off.

There are a number of maps that try to accurately represent the world, but each one has its pros and cons.

Maybe classrooms could just avoid the whole issue by buying globes instead.