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Geography Importance Gains Congress’ Attention



Citing an increased need for young Americans to be prepared to compete in a global marketplace, a bipartisan Congressional duo have introduced legislation to improve geography lessons in our nation’s schools.

U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) have introduced the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act (S.749), which would authorize competitive grants through the Department of Education to improve K-12 geography curriculum, teacher training and materials.  

“Recent studies have underscored the need to convey to young people the value of maintaining strong geography skills,” Cochran said. “Geography literacy is essential to outfitting our citizenry for success in the 21st Century. Today, Americans must be equipped to function in a global marketplace. In order to communicate and succeed in economic and diplomatic spheres, our young people must have a firm grasp on our relationship to people and places across the globe.”

Dodd echoed Cochran’s sentiments.
“In the increasingly competitive and interconnected global marketplace, it is essential that we provide our nation’s youth with the tools they need to succeed,” Dodd said.  “Every student’s arsenal of knowledge should include a solid understanding of America’s place in the world and our connections to the other people and places that share it with us.”

A 2006 study by National Geographic and Roper Public Affairs found that a significant number of Americans ages 18 to 24 lack basic global knowledge. Of the respondents polled, only 40 percent were able to point out Iraq on a map of the Middle East and almost half could not locate India on a map of Asia. On a map of the United States, one third could not find Louisiana and 48 percent were unable to identify Mississippi.

Gil Grosvenor, chairman of the National Geographic Society’s board of trustees and its Education Foundation said, “The Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act is a timely bill that will help American education keep pace with a shrinking world, a competitive global economy, environmental issues, challenging international conflicts and a rich new tapestry of cultures in our communities. Our children, and our country, will truly benefit from the support being provided by the many co-sponsors of this bill in the Senate.”

Lisa Manzione, an advocate of geographic literacy, praised the bill’s introduction, saying it will better prepare students for geotechnological jobs, which she says are booming.

“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.”

Manzione cites Department of Labor statistics that claim geotechnology is one of the three fastest-growing employment fields serving industries such as insurance, banking, real estate, forestry and agriculture, as well as state and federal governments.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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