Monday, December 10, 2012

Time for Geography

Clipart Of, LLC, used by license
As the holidays and the end of the calendar year rapidly approach, so also does our best chance of furthering the cause of geography education in Massachusetts. As explained in more detail below, after years of work on this effort, further progress at this point is dependent on action within the House Committee on Ways & Means. It is appropriate for any Massachusetts resident to contact committee leaders Dempsey, Kulik, or Walz. It is also appropriate for supporters of geography to discuss the bill with individual members if they happen to reside in their district (see list).

The bipartisan bill for geography education that was submitted by Senator Brewer and Representative Smola (an actual geographer in the legislature) passed the Joint Committee on Education (that is, both houses) and the Senate Committee on Ways & Means (which rightly determined that the bill has no economic implications).

As many readers of this blog know, the original bill suggested by the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance would have imposed a number of statewide changes in geography frameworks and licensure. During the legislative process, MGA worked with the bill sponsors to craft a more modest approach that would simply call for the creation of a Commission on Geography Education.

The bill language is on the MGA site (under its earlier number, S2194) and on the Massachusetts Senate page under the revised number 2361. The Senate site includes a complete history of the bill's passage through various committees, with links to the membership of each committee.

The bill did not make the deadline for an up-or-down vote during the formal session last summer. If no legislators object, it can still be passed. It currently awaits a recommendation from the House Committee on Ways & Means, where a budget committee is studying its potential impact. Vernon Domingo and James Hayes-Bohanan will be visiting members of the committee and the bill's sponsors in a last-minute effort to get the bill to a vote. Calls to the offices of legislators throughout the state -- and in particular to members of this committee -- would provide welcome support for this effort.

This bill is the culmination of more than a decade of work, much of it in the Department of Education. If the bill passes, we will then be able to have a serious discussion about the teaching of geography and the preparation of geography teachers in the Commonwealth. If the bill fails, it may be another decade before the discussion takes place.

Apt gear worn by an EarthView participant at
North Andover Middle School.