09 October 2008

Obi-Wan Kenobi was really talking about Geography!

To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, geography is the subject that surrounds us and binds us together. In mid-November (16-22) we will have the opportunity to celebrate one of our nation’s most neglected core academic subjects: geography.

You’re probably thinking that geography doesn’t matter in this age of high technology, but think about this. Geography is the only unfunded core academic subject in No Child Left Behind. Only three states currently outline separate standards for geography education and just four states require a course in geography for high school graduation.

But we also have to consider what the lack of geography education means for our nation in these trying times. Consider that Microsoft had to recall 200,000 copies of one of their products in India because of poor labeling that showed the disputed Kashmir region as “non-Indian.” And think about what it means for national policy when a 2006 National Geographic Society/Roper Survey found that 9 in 10 young Americans can’t find Afghanistan on a map and 6 out of 10 can’t find Iraq on a map.

So, what can we do about it? First, talk about geography. Check out online resources such as National Geographic’s Geography Awareness Week . Get the free toolkit filled with K-12 lessons and great maps to use in the classroom.

I was only half-joking when paraphrasing Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Geography really does bind our world together. We need to get geography back in our schools and communities so that our students can remain competitive in our global economy.