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Geographic Education Gets a New Emphasis
posted by: Melissa | September 24, 2015, 03:43 PM   

Geography is one of those courses that gets very little attention.  In the mid-20th century, most schools ceased teaching geography as a separate course and merged it with civics and history to from the new “social studies” course.  This move makes sense in a number of ways. In high school and middle school, social studies courses are taught as global studies combined with the study of history of a region and a study of how that region’s geography affected and had been affected by that history.


Over the past twenty years, as the push for standardized tests has become even more pronounced, so has the sidelining of geography.  Social studies, the course in which geography played an essential role, has itself been sidelined in order to focus on reading, math, and, to a certain extent, science.  Schools are spending less and less time on social studies. Many schools have actually combined social studies and reading.  In some schools the subject has been eliminated altogether.


Even where schools do still teach geography, many teachers remain uncertain about how to make the course compelling.  Geography usually defaults to memorizing a long list of places with little understanding about their influence on the people around them.  It’s no wonder that only 27% of 8th graders score proficient in geography on the NAEP test.


This comes at the same time as the need for people studied in geography is on the rise.  The Association of American Geographers predicts that job openings for people with GIS and RS degrees are projected to grow by 10% before 2020 and that job openings for geographers will grow by 30%  over that same time period.


In response to this demand, the National Geographic Society and Fox are partnering to help place renewed emphasis on geographic education.  Education Week reports that Fox and National Geographic have entered a partnership which includes the National Geographic television channels and magazines.  In the partnership, all of National Geographic’s products will be combined into the larger Fox family (the two have already been working together for over a decade), and the National Geographic society will use the profits to build a geographic education center and focus on professional development for teachers.


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