Without geography, the world would be a mystery
Geography is the subject that contributes more than any other to young people’s knowledge of the world, writes David Lambert.
The Duke of York might have boasted to an audience of businessmen in Kyrgyzstan that the UK has “the best geography teachers in the world” – but Ofsted isn’t so sure.
Its latest report on the state of geography in this country is called “Learning to make a world of difference”, a reference to the subtitle of the late Rex Walford’s history of school geography in Britain, written a decade ago. But where Walford used the phrase to signpost a story of innovation, creativity and success – one which has won the discipline an impressive reputation overseas, as well as within the Royal family – the Ofsted report deploys it with more irony.
Indeed, for those of us who understand geography to be an essential component of a good education, the report makes uncomfortable reading. It has many examples of interesting and inspiring teaching – but the key message is that these examples are not the norm. Since the early 1990s, says Ofsted, revisions to the national curriculum have gradually reduced the amount of prescribed content. Partly as a result, “all but the best students… were spatially naive. The mental images they held of the world were often confused and they were not able to locate countries, key mountain ranges or other features with any degree of confidence.” Hence the children who claimed that India was “famous for its camels”, or did not realise that Kenya was in Africa.
The problem here is that if geography is found to be weak in school – and the report shows that, in far too many cases, it is – the educational experience as a whole suffers. Geography is one of humanity’s big ideas. It is concerned with producing and communicating knowledge about ourselves in the world. Now that we have entered a period in which human beings can shape the Earth on a large scale – even destroy all life on it – engaging young people with knowledge about the planet they occupy has never been more vital.
Source: The Telegraph
Why Should Our Kids Care About Geography?
APRIL 26, 2011 In March, Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican from Missouri, introduced a bill that would fund a four-year, $60 million program to enhance the teaching of geography in public schools around the country.
Congress and Advocate Want National Program
To Help Educate Kids for Geotechnology Jobs
Everyone had that one class in school that made them think, “When am I ever going to use this in life?”
Lisa Manzione, a mom and advocate of geographic literacy – along with the U.S. Congress – seem to think that geography is no longer one of those subjects.
In March, Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican from Missouri, introduced a bill that would fund a four-year, $60 million program to enhance the teaching of geography in public schools around the country. Currently in committee, the bill was applauded by few people as loudly as Manzione, a mom who has a strong understanding of the value of teaching other cultures to children and author of the globally-focused children’s book series The Adventures of Bella and Harry (www.bellaandharry.com
“Geography is about a lot more than just memorizing where countries are on a map,” said Manzione. “It’s about understanding the cultures that go along with each country and the process for understanding those cultures has to start early. If our children are going to thrive in the newly globalized economy, and prepare for the nearly 70,000 new jobs geotechnology is adding to the U.S. each year, they need this program. In addition, they’ll be more well-rounded individuals if they accept that the United States isn’t the center of the universe and that there are other places on the map worth knowing about.”
According to the Department of Labor, Manzione is right on target. Geotechnology is one of the three fastest growing employment fields serving industries such as insurance, baking, real estate, forestry and agriculture, as well as state and federal governments. In addition, the geospatial technology industry is expected to open up more than 70,000 new jobs every year — and understanding geography is key to those applicants.
“We need this program, because our kids aren’t learning geography under the current curriculums available,” Manzione added. “In a recent National Geographic-Roper 9 country survey of geographic literacy among young adults aged 18 through 24, students in the United States ranked second to last. Only 13 percent of young adults aged 18 through 24 in the United States were able to correctly identify Iraq on a map of Asia and the Middle East. Considering we’re currently in a war with that country, and several hundred thousand American soldiers are stationed there, it’s more than a little embarrassing that most of our kids don’t even know where it is.”
The irony is that National Geographic also surveyed school districts around the country and discovered that that all 50 States and the District of Columbia recognize geography in their curricula or content standards. Moreover, an increasing number require geography for graduation and include geography in mandated statewide assessments.
That’s one of the reasons why Manzione wrote her children’s books. Her desire is to open children to the world around them, and show them the value that other cultures can bring to them. Her view is that the United States is nothing more than an amalgamation of the world’s cultures anyway, so when kids learn about the rest of the world, they are also learning more about what it is to be an American.
“All of my children’s books take place in a different country, and that’s on purpose,” she said. “Children need to learn at an early age that the world is a big place, and if they are ever going to understand their place in the world, it is probably a good idea that they know more about it than what’s in their own backyard.”
Lisa Manzione is a financial professional, children’s book author, geographic literacy advocate and mother of two children, ages 21 and 23. She also has seven dogs (three labs and four Cavalier King Charles spaniels) and two feral cats.