Thursday, April 15, 2010

AAG 2010: Day 1 "I spoke up for geography"

The Association of American Geographers convention has begun. I have seen several old friends, recent friends, and coworkers so far. So far a great convention filled with friendship, geography, and geographic nerd fights.

By the registration table is another table plastered with signs challenging convention goers to "Stand up for Geography!" Intrigued, I approached the table and struck up a conversation with one of the men who was manning it. Little did I know that this one talk would show major issues with geographers and our plans to advance geographic education.

"So how can I stand up for geography?" I asked.

"It's easy," he replied, "sign these postcards and we will give them to your congressman and Senators. The postcards will tell them that you support including geographic education education in the No Child Left Behind programs."

"Oh, can you tell me more?"

"Well, we feel that geography is such a key subject that any federal educational standard needs
to include geographic education. Math, biology, and history are included but not geography. That is why we are supporting Senate Bill S. 749 and the related House bill. Already 127 representatives and 23 senators have sponsored this bill."

"That's great! But I know that similar bills have been sponsored in the past but nothing has been done. What are we doing to ensure that the educational committees take up the cause?"

"Um.." the man started, "we have more sponsors than ever before."

Discouraged with that line I followed up with another question, "What sort of geography are we campaigning for? Regional geography, technical GIS, physical geography, environmental?"

The man dropped the ball again with "Interrelationships. You know, since geography can complement everything."

I was crushed by the inability of geographers to formulate a real plan to advance geographic education. We preach to ourselves why geography matters but few (noted exception Harm de Blij and others) have taken the time to communicate what geography is, why it is important, and figure out how to implement an educational plan.

I signed the postcards but I fear they will do no good.

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