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Capital Offense

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Copyright 1988 But if the information on state capitals is any indication, readers of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know apparently have a few things yet to learn.

In its "American Geography" section, the dictionary erroneously states in two places that Jacksonville is the capital of Florida. There is no listing for the actual capital, Tallahassee, although a map of the United States correctly identifies Tallahassee as Florida's capital.

The error was spotted by a reader of the Tallahassee Democrat, which first reported it.

Joseph F. Kett, chairman of the history department at the University of Virginia and the editor of the geography section, called the mistake "an embarrassing,9lglitch," saying, "I know Tallahassee is the capital of Florida."

He said the incorrect items were written by a researcher. But, he added, "I should have picked it up. I didn't."

The dictionary's authors note in an introductory text that studies have shown that many Americans are "amazingly ignorant of the geography of their nation." And they add that such ignorance is not confined to the poorly educated.

"Many literate Americans who have no difficulty reading The New York Times," the book says, "are unable to name the capitals of all 50 states."

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