To the Editor:
As educators, we have been told to always respond, “There are never dumb answers.” But what do we do in situations where the answer is just not what you expected at all? I have experienced some interesting answers and opinions during my educational career, but one stuck out as the most alarming. When I asked a class: “What was the 50th state added to the United States?” I received only three correct answers from a group of 22 students.
The most shocking of answers came from an honors student who was completely serious about her answer, and that answer was “Canada.”
Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more dependence on technology and less on things we learn or could research. A GPS device will not always get you to where you want to be, and you will not always have a map in front of you when someone asks where something is.
Not only is geography one of the most important subjects to learn and understand, it is a complete lifeline for our survival. Don’t get me wrong, I use a GPS myself. However, I was also taught two levels of geography in high school and continued that education into college. Today, students are lucky to be offered even one course of geography, and that is usually an elective. What we need is at least one standard geography course that students are required to take in either 7th, 8th, or 9th grade.
Even though most of the students won’t remember everything they learned in class, they will be exposed to some things that they will remember for the rest of their lives, whether it’s weather patterns or locations of continents and countries.
Imagine if your son or daughter were trying to have an intelligent conversation with someone about a country in Europe and they had no idea where or what the other person was talking about. Now is not the time to decrease students’ exposure to geography.
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2011 edition of Education Week as Keeping Geography in Schools Is Critical