GeoCarta Has Moved

Apr 23, 2007

Study of Geography is Becoming a Lost Art

The Rutland Herald details the sorry state of Geography education in the United States:

As teachers across the country try to help their students meet test score standards set by policies like the No Child Left Behind law, there is one subject that has been left behind: Geography.

Geography extends beyond where rivers are located to how topography impacts society. Geography is taught as a stand-alone subject in schools from Russia to France to India. But in most American public schools the study of the world is generally buried somewhere in social studies and history. How geography is covered is often left to the discretion of individual schools or teachers — to the dismay of experts.

“There are a lot of opponents to this style of teaching geography,” said Dr. Michal LeVasseur, executive director of the National Council of Geographic Education. “It will eventually be to the detriment of the youngsters in this country.”

LeVasseur is not the only one concerned about flagging geography education in an era of globalization. Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., recently introduced in Congress the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act.

If passed, the bill would authorize competitive grants through the Department of Education to improve K-12 geography curriculum, teacher training and instructional materials.

The article goes on to quote from a conducted last year by National Geographic magazine and Roper Public Affairs. Among the findings:
  • 63% of Americans, aged 18 to 24 could not correctly locate Iraq on a map.
  • 70% of the same group could not find Iran or Israel.
  • 90% couldn't find Afghanistan
  • 54% didn't know that Sudan is a country in Africa.
When it comes to their own country, the young people didn't fare much better:
  • Half could not find New York state on a map of the United States.
  • One-third could not place Louisiana, this right after Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Michal LeVasseur said of the survey results, "It is a troubling trend.”