Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diplomats Know

We often quote our friend and Class of 1942 Distinguished Speaker Harm de Blij, who said during a visit to BSU that "Geographic illiteracy is a threat to our national security." Who would know this better than America's top diplomats? As reported in the December 2011 issue of NCGE's Perspective, Secretaries Schultz, Baker, and Albright recently called on Congress to provide more support for geography education.

In addition to calling for geography to be funded consistently with other core subjects in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the three diplomats (who had worked under the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, respectively) also urged passage of the Teaching is Fundamental Act. As they rightly point out, the ESEA includes Geography as one of ten core disciplines, but inexplicably funds only the other nine. As increased attention is focused on the importance of highly-qualified instruction in core disciplines, it is particularly important for Congress to close this funding gap. As this attention is even more specifically aimed at the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines, the former Secretaries urge lawmakers to include geography in projects that promote STEM education.

Secretary Baker summarized the concerns of this illustrious and bipartisan group: "I witnessed firsthand how important it was that Americans understood geography and the world around them. Since then, as countries have become even more interconnected, that need has grown."

Another bipartisan group of geography supporters is mentioned in the same issue of Perspective. The National Geographic Education Foundation recently named its 2011 Legislators of the Year for their on-going support of geographic education.

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) were names, along with Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) and Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin). For their commitment to providing high-quality geographic education and their understanding of the importance of this for student success, each legislator received a special home-state photography from a National Geographic photographer.

Finally, Perspective reports that 10,000 people have written in support of Geography is Fundamental. The Speak Up for Geography web site offers a number of ways to encourage even more support. The simple video below is part of the campaign.

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