Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where is what? So what!

Left image: Ferry berth in Circular Quay, Sydney
Right image: Train platform, somewhere in France.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Where is what?

The following recent geography bloopers show that we have a long way to go to get the community and media (let alone our leaders and celebrities) to know the geography of the world in a traditional sense, let alone the modern study of place in geography.

* Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007 went viral with her geographical knowledge
* President George Bush claimed that "border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better".
* Sarah Palin could see Russia!
* In a National Geographic survey in 2002, 85 per cent of young Americans could not find Israel, Iraq or Afghanistan; 30 per cent could not find the Pacific.
* Paul Martin, the Canadian PM suggested in April that the D-Day landings took place in Norway.
* In 2001, George Bush had to ask the teenage Welsh singer Charlotte Church which state Wales was in. (She replied: "It's a separate country next to England.")
* Norway's royal palace apologised to Portugal after Crown Prince Haakon claimed that Portugal was on the Mediterranean.
* Britney Spears was quoted as saying “I get to go to overseas places, like Canada”.
Geography is more than just about where things are on a map but it is a great starting point (or rather reference point) to know where things are before we embark on some modern day geography.
Here are some sites regarding the location of places which George and Britney, to name just a few should have visited to ‘grow’ their geographic knowledge of place (in the traditional sense).
* Geography game for iPhone/iPod Touch: Locate and discover awesome places of the world. Like in the spy movies!
* Map game on the Middle East
* Place name software
* US Geography
* National Geographic quiz
* Europe quiz
* Testing geographical knowledge
* Europe quiz
* Europe map match game

But does it matter if we know ‘by heart’ where something is on the globe? Did it really matter that George W did not have a sound grasp of where places were?
Matt Rosenberg in his article ‘Why Place Name Geography is Important’ reflected what many in our community and even schools consider what geography is about. Rosenberg argues that one of the core aspects of geographic knowledge remains the ability to identify places on a map.

“By learning the location and names of countries, states, and capital cities, the educated global citizen develops a better mental map of our world. It is this mental map that understands the relationship between places for security, resource, communication, and transportation purposes the knowledge of the absolute location of places on the map is vital in today's global society.“

Rosenberg believes that every citizen, at a minimum, should know the location of every country on the planet and that every home and classroom should have an atlas as well as a globe. Being able to locate places in the world news on a map of the planet is an important part of being part of our global society. Both an atlas and a globe provide varying perspectives on location.

“Once one knows the location of countries on the planet, one acquires a global perspective and understands the relative location of places. By taking this step, the entire planet benefits because we will have brought the entire world into our personal mental and will thus better understand our planet and its political divisions.”

Is he correct? Have the modern geographers with their concentration on physical and human processes and reliance on computers to create maps, “thrown out the baby with the bathwater”?

My next blog entry will examine the place of place in geography and does it really matter if we know by memory where a country, city etc are?

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