- It's inaccurate. Greenland looks roughly the same size as Africa, whereas in actuality Africa is 14 time larger. This problem is due to projecting round objects on flat surfaces. That's why geographers prefer the 'peeled orange' map.
- It's based on arbitrary convention. Is there a sign on planet Earth that says 'this side up'? What makes north north?
- It's culturally biased. This is why those who live 'down under' appreciate a good upside-down projection of Earth, preferable with the page break in the middle of the Atlantic, not the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to the Euro-centric world view which we're all so accustomed to.
Now let's apply the paradox of cartography to school. Is it possible that school functions as a learning tool for how to deal with the 'real world' because it provides students with an imperfect environment? In what other place do you have to raise your hand before you're allowed to speak? Where else are you asked questions that the questioner already knows the answer to (besides in a place of interrogation)? In what other world are you rewarded with report cards? Sure, these procedures resemble the real world a little bit; in normal group conversation we shouldn't speak out of line, and at the end of an average month we receive pay slips (which may even reflect our recent performance). But in essence school is filled with conventions that inaccurately represent the life 'out there.' Furthermore, to find out how culturally biased a school is, all you have to do is talk to the foreign exchange students about their frustrations adjusting to the local school culture.
An interesting phenomenon that could support this analogy is that odd moment in the adult world, when getting involved in a heated debate with a large group of friends in the pub or at the coffee machine at work. We have a sudden urge to raise our hand to request a turn to talk. Everyone laughs. And here's another odd one: Some adults who graduated long ago will still say, 'I shouldn't make it too late, it's a school night,' when in fact they mean the following day is a work day. Why is this?
Before we accept the paradox of cartography as a good analogy for school, it is worthwhile to define the term 'imperfect'. If a school loses your transcripts as you're applying to university, do they have the right to say that their imperfection is the perfect preparation for the real world, where people lose things? Or should we look at the paradox the other way around? A teacher has done a very fair job of assessing the class's tests, with equal opportunities, a transparent point scheme, and well thought out criteria. Isn't his test a perfect imperfection because the world is hardly ever 'fair', 'equal', 'transparent' or 'well thought out'. Here the map has a guiding function.
Does the paradox of cartography show us how the imperfections of school life are actually perfect for young learners?