Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Wonderful World

The United States has a greater need for geographic literacy than any other country, and yet its people -- young and old -- lack this fundamental area of knowledge to an alarming degree.

As my colleague Harm de Blij has said, geographic ignorance is a national-security problem, with U.S. citizens all-too willing to commit lives and treasure to conflicts in places they do not understand. As many are discovering in 2008, geographic ignorance is also a serious economic handicap. Prices change rapidly on commodities from near and far, and many people have little idea what those connections are or what factors might influence the price of things they use every day.

People who set education policy have been slow to recognize the importance of geographic education, after decades of experimentation with the amorphous catch-all of "social studies" all but eliminated it from the curriculum. This is where MyWonderfulWorld.org comes in! Sponsored by National Geographic, MyWonderfulWorld is a multi-pronged approach to promoting geographic education at all levels.

Please have a look, sign up for updates, and help us build momentum for geographic education. Nothing less than the future of our nation -- and the world -- is at stake!


Since the summer of 2008, my colleague Dr. Vernon Domingo and I have enjoyed taking EarthView to area schools. Close to 5,000 students have already learned more about the earth from this out-sized globe, which is really a portable classroom for teaching geography.

Our geography department was able to purchase the giant tent-like work of art last summer, as our president, Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria became increasingly interested in helping us to promote geographic education in the Commonwealth. Early on, geography student Natalie Regan became our "globe wrangler" -- helping us with transportation, setup, and working wonderfully with the children and teachers. We have also been fortunate to have veteran teacher Rosalie Sokol teach most of our programs. In addition to her classroom experience, Ms. Sokol has received extra training from National Geographic and is an active member of its My Wonderful World team. Behind the scenes, we have been very fortunate to have the support of Laura Smith from the college's external affairs office, who helps us with scheduling, media, and alumni connections.

The alumni connections have been among the most enjoyable aspects of this program. As we go to schools, we find Bridgewater alumni -- including the wonderful graduates of our geography program -- serving as teachers and even as principals.

Although we enjoy the experience with students itself, we have an additional motive: We are hoping to convince educators at all level of the urgent need to restore geography as its own subject for high school graduation and teacher certification at the secondary level. As my friend Dr. Domingo often says, "Without geography, we're nowhere!"

Monday, December 29, 2008

What to do with the extra time?

The Earth is slowing down, as all of us old folks do. And as Matt Rosenberg has alerted his readers, the standards officials of all the nations have agreed to give us an extra second to keep the clocks right. So I've been spending my time trying to figure out what to do with this extra second. I might spend it looking at the digital LL Bean clock on our wall, which gets updated constantly from the U.S. government clock in Colorado -- just to see if this really works.

Or I could spend it getting a head start on the midnight kiss. Whatever the case, I need to figure it out soon.

If you are reading this post after the new year, of course, you've already blown that second :-)

Stumble Upon

Here is a shortcut to something like blog postings -- my Stumble Upon postings of the past couple years. Notice that on Stumble Upon, I've only posted links that I could give a "thumbs up," on the "if you can't say something nice ..." theory.

The year in maps: Cartography Boom

Drake Bennett does geography a good turn by describing quite a variety of interesting maps that have been in the news during the past year.

The maps are quite intriguing, describing many things -- moonwalks, whale accidents, and voting -- at a variety of scales.

I cringed only a little at the mention of Harvard (that nemesis of geographers everywhere).