Where in the world?

Recent discussions about inadequate high schools have focused on improving math and English. But topics like geography remain in desperate need of attention as well. Several years ago, a poll reported that only 13 percent of Americans ages 18-24 could find Iraq on a map, and scores on the 2001 geography NAEP were dismayingly low for high school students. One college professor in this week's Washington Times reports that a mere 20 percent of her students could find Thailand on a map following the devastating tsunami. Parents, educators, and geography-oriented organizations are making some progress at giving the subject greater priority in schools across America. In 2004, 10,471 students took the AP Geography course, compared to only 3,000 in 2001. The Geographic Education National Implementation Project (GENIP), which offers a voluntary geography standards framework for states, reports that forty-nine states (all but Iowa) have adopted standards based on GENIP's guidelines. According to Sarah Bednarz, a professor of geography at Texas A&M (and coordinator of GENIP), students should know more than simply the obvious names, spellings, and locations on a map but should also know context and connections between people and places. Not doing so, she says, "would be like saying mathematics is all arithmetic."

"Lost in geography," Ann Geracimos, Washington Times, March 21, 2005

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