Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Geography Just Doesn't Get Loved

You think with books like Why Geography Matters and groups like Give Geography its Place we could move beyond "What do geographers do? Teach?" but apparently we are not there yet.

The College Board is doing an audit of all Advance Placement courses in American high schools. The College Board operates the test portion which if students pass the students may receive college credit for the knowledge they know in high school. The College Board is concerned some of the course may not be on par with the mission statement. That's fair.

What irks Catholicgauze is the statement by Bruce Poch, Dean of Admissions at Pomona College, a very selective private university in California. Mr. Poch, discussing classes like AP Music and AP Art which he considers useless (Hey, I may see little application but as long as there are art and music majors they might as well get some credit) gave this story "He [Poch] recalled seeing an AP human geography class on a transcript which led to much confusion and laughter among admissions officials."

Ha ha ha! What can a human geography do besides being a consultant, planner, analyst, and much, much more. Poch is not a blogger or someone else who's opinion can be tossed into the wind, he is the DEAN OF ADMISSIONS! The president, David Oxtoby, claims to have an interest in the "international dimensions of education." What about geography? Is that not international enough?

Instead of just complaining, things can be done. Mr. Poch (admissions@pomona.edu) and the President of Pomona College (David.Oxtoby@pomona.edu) can be reached via e-mail. Loyal minions attack!

My message to Pomona is this, "Don't be a Silvestre Reyes, know geography or get lost!" So far the catch phrase is better than my other ideas.


Anonymous said...

From Bruce Poch:

I have written in reply to several of your colleagues who also wrote or called to express concern and, at times, anger about the article you mention and included a copy of my reply.

I am disappointed by the misquote and context and hope my note, below, will clarify my comments. Feel welcome to share it.I welcome opportunity to set the record straight.

I was disappointed that the quote reported wasn't quite right in the case of the Human Geography AP course comment. That course wasn't the source of laughter that I mentioned in the article, but the “AP Lunch” comment made by my colleague was.

That said, I am concerned by the spread far from the core subjects that the AP program once had as a focus and I am concerned because fundamental preparation in gateway course areas is being lost with early specialization by high school students who have bypassed deeper exposure to the fundamentals which would serve them well by opening doors in multiple areas in college.

My liberal arts bias is clear enough and I don't think narrowing fields prior to a collegiate experience is a good, sound educational idea.

We could, no doubt, have a lively debate about whether Human Geography or, as another example, environmental sciences (the latter offered in the AP form without prerequisite study of chemistry, physics, biology or geology) should or should not be included in the concept of a core. I do certainly think that environmental science, along with geography, studio art and other subjects are valid and important academic fields, but that doesn’t mean I think they belong in a high school AP curriculum as good substitutes for core areas.

My concern is the migration to subject such as Human Geography, Psychology, Studio Art and other areas may be and too often are taken in lieu of foreign languages, English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics and history offerings which do open doors for multiple fields of study.

I am, of course, quite sorry the remark was misquoted and the context altered. That remains a hazard of working with even well intentioned reporters who are scribbling notes and who have the ultimate control with their editors over the printed word.


Bruce Poch
Vice President and
Dean of Admissions
Claremont, California

Adrian said...

I took AP Human Geography the first year it was offered (got a 5 on the AP). It was kind of a mish-mash course thrown together with no real organization. Hopefully it is better now, but I don't think the 2001-2002 version of AP geography really deserved much consideration.

I also took normal geography in 8 grade, as the mandatory social sciences class. Geography is/was alive and well in my old school system.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for the comment! That's why the College Board is auditing. AP Human Geography does have much potential.

Mr. Poch,
Thank you for your reply. It does seem you were misquoted.