How did you learn about your town, state, country and the world? What did you learn about the cultures of the people living in those places, the physical characteristics of the land and all the other skills necessary to understand geography? Are today’s students knowledgeable about their world?
Specifically, what happened to geography? While the ed. reformers continually complain that America’s students are not ready for a global economy (this was never true), they’ve imposed such strict funding cuts (ultimately designed to shutter public schools) that students have missed out on any kind of worthwhile study of the globe! This kind of curriculum tampering has resulted in a loss of many subjects that used to be the mainstay of the school curriculum.
Recently, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña described the loss of social studies there. Due to a loss of state funding “social studies, science the arts, physical ed., library science, foreign languages and family and career studies” are all gone. What kind of a shell of a curriculum do they find themselves with there now? And it is like that around the country. How well really will our students be prepared for the future and the global economy?
Geography has never been given the credit it deserves, but it has been in particularly serious trouble since NCLB. While NCLB treated reading, math and high-stakes standardized testing as the only way to close an achievement gap, children ended up losing out on other subjects—subjects that would have made them whole intellectually. And when you consider the problems in our world, the loss of a structured geography class is serious.
Let me repeat, the loss of geography is not to be taken lightly. Knowledge about one’s state, world and community is vitally important to our welfare and our capability at getting along with each other.
Geography also provides jobs! Check this out from the American Association of Geographers: “While geography was listed among ‘America’s least common jobs,’ data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average geographer earned more than $75,000 in 2013, and the field is expected to grow by 29 percent between 2012 and 2022. Furthermore, The Guardian published a poll in 2010 listing geography graduates as the least unemployed of all disciplines in the U.K.”
Here are a few career areas covered by geography:
- Environmental Management
- Medical Geographer
- Urban Planner/Community Developer
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist
- Transportation Management
- Emergency Management
- Foreign Service
- Librarian/Information Scientist
- National Park Service Ranger
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Curators Historians
- Tour Guide Experts
- Travel Guides
- Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
The loss of geography probably affects poor students in poor schools more than those in wealthier schools, but with Common Core State Standards, all students are now affected. And it doesn’t look like they are going to fully revive geography anytime soon.
With Common Core State Standards it is pretty much the same as NCLB with the primary focus on English/language arts and math. There is some random attention to social studies, mostly starting in 6th grade with cross curriculum talk. But it’s anybody’s guess if teachers will focus thoroughly on any geography in classes. The emphasis still is English/language arts standards. If a student is lucky, their teacher will pull from National Geographic resources, but exactly how is geography aligned to the curriculum when it comes to CCSS?
Teachers can use nonfiction books, or informational texts that cover something about other cultures. For example, first graders might learn about Mesopotamia (Grade 1 ELA Domain 4: Early World Civilizations), which sounds a bit strange and developmentally inappropriate for young children who might not yet know about the town in which they live.
What else do children learn about geography? It doesn’t look like much. It is a terrible loss for students, the country and the world.