The Decline of Geographical Literacy among Americas High School Students

The decline of geographical literacy among America’s high school students is not the only place that geographical literacy has been declining. All aspects of American society have seen a decline. It is not a recent phenomenon. Sadly educators have left the appropriate study of geography lacking. They have expected other disciplines to catch up the slack.

Geography literacy is not just about location. It is about the five themes of Geography: Location, Place, Human-Environmental Interactions, Movement,and Regions. The adequate study of Geography must include the study of these themes. Additionally, Geography can touch every other discipline of study, i. e. Geography of Medicine, etc. To reclaim geographical literacy, everyone must be interested. This may never be accomplished on a national level.

If we decide to make Geography an integral part of the Social Studies curriculum at the secondary school level, there are special considerations. Is it to be made a require subject for graduation or should it be an elective. Another consideration is the inclusion of a Geography Honors course and a Geography Advanced Placement course. In most secondary curriculum, the honors and advanced placement courses are given more weight that just the regular run-of-the-mill classes and thus bringing the more overall talented students to the discipline of Geography.

There is a brightness in the future of geography study. All areas of Geography benefit from computer technology, however the subfields of Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing and image processing, and cartography are the primary areas where computer technology is utilized. Career opportunities do attract student attention to a Geography curriculum at the collegiate level. The use of Geographic technology in the military and law enforce is widespread.

Garrison Kellor made the comment in a column for Salon.com that maybe we should just start all over. His comment was about what government has become. I would submit that we should start over in the study of Geography.

The decline of geographical literacy in America should not be blamed on any one thing. As a society, we must demand further geographical training in the high schools with bone fide geography teachers. We must become more aware of Geography in our day to day lives. Can you read a road map? Can you name the continents? Do you know the difference in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? Can you describe why we have seasons? Perhaps you, too, need to go on a quest for geographic knowledge.