The Boston school system says it is the first in the US to adopt a world map that shows how big countries really are in relation to each other, unlike the one most of us grew up with. The Gall-Peters projection, first published in 1974, gets rid of the distortion seen in the Mercator projection devised by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569, the Guardian reports. His map made navigation along colonial trade routes easier, but it puts Germany in the middle (because it moved the equator) and makes Greenland the same size as Africa, when it is 14 times smaller. The Mercator projection also made Europe and North America seem bigger than they really are, a distortion that the Gall-Peters map corrects.
Boston Public Schools spokesman Colin Rose says the introduction of the new map is part of an effort "to decolonize the curriculum" in the system's 125 schools. "The Mercator projection is a symbolic representation that put Europe at the center of the world," he says. "And when you continue to show images of the places where people's heritage is rooted that is not accurate, that has an effect on students." He says the new maps are being phased in and instead of being removed, the Mercator maps will be left next to the Gall-Peters ones to let students see the differences. Boston's WBUR notes that the school map controversy featured in a West Wing episode. (This map may be the most proportional one ever.)