Monday, September 20, 2010

Kids Need Geography. So Why Won’t Public Schools Teach It?

Geography, Queen of the Sciences. Yes, that’s what scholars used to call geography. Savor that title.

Queen of the Sciences. Is that not the highest praise you could bestow?

It sounds so strange, like something from Star Trek or Avatar. Geography important? This must be far away and in another galaxy.

There could hardly be a more dramatic contrast between what elite universities and brilliant minds thought about geography a thousand years ago, and what we think about it now.

Today we read about surveys where a third of the high school students in Arizona don’t know the name of the ocean on our East Coast. We see surveys where a big percentage of children can’t find major countries on a map, or even their own country.

None of this is the fault of the children, I’m certain. It’s the fault of our anti-intellectual Education Establishment, which for 100 years has waged war against foundational knowledge and basic facts.

What is more foundational and basic than geography? It is the starting point for the study of just about everything else: history, geology, archaeology, anthropology, environmental science, world trade, military history, early mathematics, etc.

Bottom line, teach geography, then more geography. It’s so easy to do. Every school room, and every child’s room, should have a map of the United States and as well a map of the world. At appropriate moments, adults can casually point and say, this is where you live, this is where the story takes place, this is where the flood occurred, this is where your uncle served in the military.

But why has the Education Establishment turned so completely against geography? Therein lies the history of 20th century American education. When you understand why the ideologues in charge belittled geography, you know why they battled against educational excellence in general.

In a shift toward lower standards, geography symbolized everything our so-called educators hated. Facts and precision, for two examples. Geography had to die.

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