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The issue in the article guidlines for geographic education in schools in the united states

Social Education 58 4pp. Natoli, and Richard G.

The Guidelines for Geographic Education:A Ten-Year Retrospective

Boehm It is a serious problem when our students fail to achieve a minimum standard of competency in global understanding. It is more serious when we overlook these deficiencies in our educational system. It is critical when we formulate national policies that rely on imprecise information and unclear interpretations about our own geography and that of other nations.

Morrill, 1991-1992 The Guidelines for Geographic Education: Elementary and Secondary Schools Joint Committee on Geographic Education, Association of American Geographers and the National Council for Geographic Education 1984 marked the formal development of a plan for reforming curricula in school geography.

Teaching in a Global Context

The Guidelines provided the first clear content and skills framework for K-12 geography in the history of the discipline as the five fundamental themes in geography: The Guidelines also includes a scope and sequence for teaching and learning in grades K-6 by outlining concepts and learning outcomes according to grade level.

For grades 7-12, the Guidelines suggests a sequence of geography course work with a short description of each course. A set of secondary-level learning outcomes outlines the skills development that students will find necessary for learning geography. Although many of these are generic skills gathering data, asking questions, analyzingwhen applied in a geographical context, they can encourage geography students to stress higher-level thinking and to use the scientific method for solving geographical problems.

The first printing of 10,000 copies was followed by a reprinting within two months. Today more than 100,000 copies have been distributed and formal translations have appeared in Japanese Nakayama 1991 and Arabic Saudi Geographical Society 1992. We might attribute the widespread distribution to their broad acceptance, and suggest that, because of the Guidelines, other countries are beginning to look to the United States for leadership in geography learning.

This report will examine the events leading to publication of the Guidelines, reflect on a subsequent decade of their use, and consider their influence on geographic education. Evolution of the Guidelines for Geographic Education During the early 1980s, widely publicized tests indicated that American schoolchildren had an embarrassingly poor knowledge of geography. The tests largely asked questions about place names and locations, so it is unclear if this limited knowledge of places also indicated a poor understanding of more complex geographical relationships.

The tests, however, suggested an overall deficiency in geographical knowledge by U. The Global Understanding Project's2 testing of geographical relationships, as well as overwhelming anecdotal evidence from hundreds of college geography, history, and international relations teachers, suggested that American students from kindergarten through graduate school were geographically incompetent.

This deficiency coincided with the revelation that Americans' low level of global awareness and knowledge of the interdependence of nations had significant negative economic and political consequences. Compelling arguments existed for action to increase geography's role in the educational system see President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies 1979a and b. A memorandum from the The issue in the article guidlines for geographic education in schools in the united states Affairs Director of the AAG Natoli 1982 to the Executive Committees of the AAG and NCGE quoted Manson's 1981 contention that a steady decline of student enrollment in geography courses indicated a failure of our major geographical organizations to formulate objectives for geographic education in the United States.

Lacking such unified objectives and clear ideas about what people should know about things geographic, we continue to be appalled by the horror stories of the public's geographical illiteracy. It is erroneous to attribute the decline of geographic education to one or two simple failures by the profession, yet there is considerable merit for professional geographers to state forthrightly and clearly the objectives for geographic education.

Their decisions to eliminate geography as a required college course for prospective elementary or social studies teachers is evidence of their innocence of its value. These efforts, however, had almost no effect on the way that teachers presented geography in their classrooms.

Articles in scholarly geographical journals did not reach the appropriate audiences and the geography being taught had failed to pass the test of social, political, or economic utility for citizens in a democracy Libbee and Stoltman 1988, 22-28. In 1981, the AAG commissioned a report noting a lack of involvement by geographers in preparing background papers of the Carter Commission on foreign languages and international studies.

The Guidelines for Geographic Education:A Ten-Year Retrospective

Geography and International Knowledge Committee on Geography and International Knowledge 1982 set forth some ideas about what college students and well-informed citizens should know about geography. Geographers had a strong interest in finding remedies for an unconscionable situation. It was a propitious time to develop forthright and clearly stated objectives for geography. The Committee's original charge was to prepare a framework for secondary school geography based on the discipline's discrete subject matter.

The Joint Committee, however, expanded its mission to include elementary school geography. Geography in the elementary school was problematic because of its ambiguous identification with both social studies and science, although it was often barely identifiable in either.

Guidelines for Global and International Education

Committee members were selected on the basis of their knowledge of geography, geographic education, the way schools operate, and their acquaintance with social studies curricula. To provide guidelines on course content, competencies, and teaching and learning objectives in geography for the decision-makers in American school systems. To inform the general public of the need for geographic education in American. To provide guidelines that will demonstrate how the geographical point of view and how the discipline of geography must be incorporated into.

To recommend standards for geography teacher preparation and for competencies [that permit] teaching geography courses in the schools. Rather, they developed out of a need to satisfy several criteria. The Committee decided that it was crucial to communicate school geography in a structure that informed persons would understand. It would also send a strong message to the public about the complexity and diversity of geography.

Although the concepts represented by the five fundamental themes were not new to geographers, the Joint Committee sought to clarify these core ideas and to give them a logical theoretical and sequential structure, and a purpose that would speak to educators as well as the general public.

These strategies allowed the five theme framework to be applicable at all educational levels, to be grasped easily and quickly, and to permit rapid facilitation by non-geographers.

This last criterion was important because many teachers with the responsibility for teaching geography in the United States have had little or no formal training in the subject.

  1. These efforts, however, had almost no effect on the way that teachers presented geography in their classrooms.
  2. Recently, AGS has revived its "Around the World" program of regional studies supported by classroom activity kits for elementary and middle school students.
  3. A deep body of literature about other cultures, both in the United States and around the world, is available to teachers. Five major goals provide a blueprint for expediting reform in geographic education.

Lack of an adequate or any background in geography left teachers unprepared to cope with the subject matter and they did not understand the basic methodologies of the discipline Cirrincione and Farrell 1988, 11-21. The schools and the public often perceived geography as trivial, esoteric, or only as a pleasant avocation for armchair travelers.

The Joint Committee designed the Guidelines to address these problems and perceptions by stating how geographers organize knowledge and addressing concerns for those who have limited understanding of the subject, including teachers, learners, and the public. More than 100 professional geographers and a cross-section of other professionals and laypersons critically reviewed the Guidelines before the publication's release.

The themes begin with location because spatial knowledge in geography generally originates with fixing phenomena in space, i. Place is the first logical progression from location and, in effect, elaborates on location, bestowing it with physical, cultural, and perceptual characteristics that give it distinctive or unique properties.

Relationships within places commonly referred to as human-environmental interactions follows, in the logical progression, with the geographical idea that places have locations within physical and cultural environments and interact with those environments, thus setting up the forces for movement.

Educators Respond to Globalization

Movement constitutes the cultural and physical relationships between and among places, i. The logical extension of these spatial relationships is the concept of regions: Regions may operate at any scale. Like the other logically derived themes, regions are not static but change over time in response to both internal and external forces.

After completing the Guidelines, the Joint Committee submitted recommendations for learning outcomes standardsmaterials evaluation, and materials development in its report to the AAG and NCGE in April 1984. Today, most of the committee's recommendations are under way. The Society distributed one million copies of this map to schools throughout the United States.

A Foundation for Curricular Change The five themes have become a foundation for curricular change in geography in dozens of states by satisfying an urgent need for a recognizable structure of the core of geography that teachers could use at any grade level.

The fundamental themes are widely expansive and should seldom be studied either individually or in isolation; rather, they should be integrative Boehm and Petersen 1994. Thatcher 1985 has noted that "One area that has great potential for strengthening the integrative aspects of education is geography.

Textbook publishers have responded to the Guidelines by including the fundamental themes as content organizers in new geography books.

Subsequent use of the five themes by teachers, textbook publishers, map producers, and developers of curricular materials in geography and the social studies is evidence of the themes' value and utility. The extensive interest in the Guidelines and teachers' receptiveness to the five themes encouraged professional geographers to work toward institutionalizing reform in geographic education.

Such change in the United States is elusive partly because of the great value that school districts place on their independence.

  • New communications technologies make learning experiences possible across the borders of time and place, allowing many more students to take part in international exchanges without leaving their classrooms;
  • Political Systems Includes the study of political systems and ideologies; the United Nations; the role of non-governmental organizations; the role of alliances and treaties, regional integration and democratization and autonomy; and the role of international law;
  • It would also send a strong message to the public about the complexity and diversity of geography;
  • All of these ingredients will be necessary to help geography meet its educational challenges now and in the future.

Morrill has pointed out: Any single group urging nationwide improvement in a specific aspect of education faces a formidable array of decision-makers at all levels of the political hierarchy. GENIP is the first major cooperative effort toward a common goal by the four major geography organizations. These organizations also provide some financial support for its work.

This unprecedented cooperation indicates the profession's perception of the urgent need to improve the quality and to increase the quantity of geography education. GENIP's mission is to advance the spirit of the Guidelines by developing teaching materials, reviewing teacher certification standards, developing institutes and workshops for teachers, creating a cadre of leaders and advocates among teachers, and advising groups who prepare diagnostic and competency tests in geography.

Five major goals provide a blueprint for expediting reform in geographic education: One of GENIP's first tasks was to authorize an expansion of the learning outcomes and skills published in the Guidelines.

These two documents have been used widely by teachers, curriculum writers, and test developers. Grosvenor, President and Chairman of the Board of the National Geographic Society, made a commitment of the resources of the Society to improving geographic education. The GEP's main effort was to develop state-wide alliances for geographic education. These alliances are partnerships between teachers and university geographers with mutual interests in improving geographic education.

The NGS-supported alliances have embraced the five fundamental themes as a content structure in their summer institutes for teachers. Development of in-service teacher training techniques is integral to the alliance-sponsored geography institutes with the expectation that participants will yield a multiplier effect by sharing both their knowledge and materials with other teachers in their home school districts.

Today, 52 state alliances operate; these include Washington, D. Unprecedented Cooperation Among Geography Organizations Since 1984, all of the major geography organizations have actively participated in the reform and revitalization of geographic education.

The NCGE and AAG initiated the movement through professional leadership, intellectual spirit, and by raising necessary funds from perennially scarce resources. GENIP operates to maintain communication and cooperation among the four organizations and serves as a clearinghouse for uniting projects with funding and the appropriate geographic educators. The National Geographic Society applied its considerable political, economic, and media acumen, as well as its staff and administrative support.

The American Geographical Society offered support through materials and programs on geographic education. AGS publishes Focus magazine, a source of useful and current information on geographic topics and world regions. Recently, AGS has revived its "Around the World" program of regional studies supported by classroom activity kits for elementary and middle school students.

Natoli 1988a volume written by geographic educators that sets a context for strengthening geography in the social studies through background reports, theoretical frameworks, activities, strategies applying the five fundamental themes, and resources necessary for accomplishing the goal of the title.

  1. The American Geographical Society offered support through materials and programs on geographic education. Do students study a foreign language or engage in cultural exchanges?
  2. Relationships within places commonly referred to as human-environmental interactions follows, in the logical progression, with the geographical idea that places have locations within physical and cultural environments and interact with those environments, thus setting up the forces for movement. Government Printing Office, 1979b.
  3. Textbook publishers have responded to the Guidelines by including the fundamental themes as content organizers in new geography books. The test, according to A.
  4. Outlook It is premature to discuss whether the reform movement in geographic education will be successful. The process can also be reversed, allowing the students to examine a global issue and how it plays out in their hometowns.

Two major educational media productions from the Agency for Instructional Technology follow this conceptual framework: Bureau of the Census 1992 educational videotape, "Hitched to the Planet," clearly identifies the five themes as a content organizer to support student investigations of geography with census materials.

Workbooks in geographic skills development for the schools are also appearing that employ the five theme structure e. The fundamental themes are even appearing as a content organizer in introductory geography textbooks at the college level e. The Guidelines and the five themes are also playing a prominent role in recent national assessment initiatives.

As the NAEP process came to a close, the National Goals Panel and the Department of Education authorized work on a national assessment instrument designed to evaluate students at grades 4, 8, and 12 for world-class performance in geography and the other four core subjects.

Most schools, however, will examine the richness of geographic knowledge, skills, and attitudes portrayed in these standards and find them useful in practically every aspect of their social studies and science curricula. Outlook It is premature to discuss whether the reform movement in geographic education will be successful. Educational reform efforts are often at the mercy of the politics of curriculum development and implementation, the conservatism of schools and parents when confronted with educational reform, and the reluctance of partners to share power and resources from one project or group to another.