The History, Psychology, and Pedagogy of Geographic Literacy

The History, Psychology, and Pedagogy of Geographic Literacy

The History, Psychology, and Pedagogy of Geographic Literacy

The History, Psychology, and Pedagogy of Geographic Literacy

Synopsis

There is widespread belief, confirmed by research, that geographic literacy levels are unacceptably low. This book brings to teachers and others concerned about enlivening the place of geography in the school curriculum information in the several dimensions that must be considered if the contribution of geography to one's general education is to be reasonably understood. Included are (1) the history of geography in the school curriculum, along with why and how this strand has come to occupy the place it does in the modern school curriculum; (2) information about the evolution of modern-day geographic thinking (including a brief review of its history as a unifying form of intellectual inquiry); (3) reviews of research relating to the development of spatial abilities and the ability to "read" maps; (4) discussion of the way the teaching of geographic concepts may be incorporated across the curriculum; (5) analyses of the problem of evaluating progress in teaching geographic ideas and of the problems raised by,recent technological developments.

Excerpt

The idea of geography as particularly worthy of a place in the school curriculum is experiencing a kind of rebirth. It is not that this "mother of all the sciences" has ever been totally excluded as an educational good, as something unworthy or not important enough to claim its share of the instructional day, but it has experienced a checkered career as a subject in the school curriculum. Now, however, under the auspices and vast wealth of the National Geographic Society, and kindred organizations that share the society's goals, there is widespread interest in the problem of geographic literacy and in developing strategies for accomplishing the goal of bringing into being a significantly more literate geographic society.

The most pervasive problem facing those who would, in a sense, resurrect geography has two aspects. the first of these has to do with the problem of understanding what actually constitutes this thing called geography (geol "earth,"/graphy/"writing"). the public generally, and the teaching professions as well, tend to think of geography, at least as far as our elementary and secondary schools are concerned, as the compilation of facts. Particularly, this means the ability to name and locate phenomena, usually on a map, but generally it implies the ability to answer what I have called "the Mozambique question"; that is, the "Where is it and what is it?" kind of question. the fact that students in our schools, and the public at large, are, more likely than not, themselves unable to answer the Mozambique question has been offered up as proof of the illiteracy that has plagued Americans from time immemorial, or at least since such questions were first asked in any formal sort of way. (Chapter I describes the first such survey, which was conducted in the 1840s in the Boston Public Schools.) But is this a true indicator of geographic knowledge--of geographic literacy?

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