WASHINGTON (July 14, 2005)–Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) has introduced a bill that seeks to designate federal funds for the improvement of geography education, one of nine core academic disciplines identified in the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act. The “Teaching Geography is Fundamental” Act (S. 1376) enjoys prominent bipartisan support from senators Ted Stevens (R-AK), John Warner (R-VA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Conrad Burns (R-MT).
The bill is designed to improve the quality of primary- and secondary-level geography instruction by supporting programs that connect K-12 teachers with the geographic knowledge and expertise of university faculty members. The legislation also includes provisions for new research and dissemination of model programs.
“Our young people are asked to compete in the global marketplace for jobs, help lead our nation’s international politics and make tough choices here at home, yet do not get the support they need at school to become geographically literate,” said Gil Grosvenor, chairman of the National Geographic Society. “On behalf of National Geographic, I commend Senator Cochran and his colleagues for their leadership on this critical 21st-century issue. They have proposed legislation to support programs and to fund research to identify educational practices that work best to teach children about physical systems, culture and the study of place. This is a visionary, pathfinding bill.”
The bill’s sponsors were motivated by evidence that Americans are falling behind the rest of the world on key issues of geographic literacy, and the fact that geography education is the only core academic discipline not to receive designated federal funding. According to the bill, “geographic literacy is essential to a well-prepared citizenry in the 21st century because geographic factors assume greater importance as the world’s economies, societies, and political structures grow more global in scale.”
The legislation cites a 2002 National Geographic-Roper Global Geographic Literacy Survey, which polled more than 3,000 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and the United States. Top scorers were Sweden, Germany and Italy. Americans came in next to last, edging out Mexico.
The study also found that young Americans were the least likely among their counterparts to know that Afghanistan is where the Taliban and al Qaeda were based. Less than half the Americans could identify France, the United Kingdom or Japan on a world map. Fewer than two in three could find China on a map of the Middle East/Asia, and 56 percent were unable to locate India, home to 17 percent of people on Earth. Just half of young Americans could find New York, one of the nation’s most populous states.
In addition to funding the Roper Poll, National Geographic has invested more than
$100 million to improve geographic knowledge in and out of the classroom. Activities include the National Geographic Bee, a nationwide contest in which nearly 5 million fourth- through eighth-graders participate each year. Through the National Geographic Education Foundation, teachers can tap into a grassroots network of state-based geographic alliances, online resources, grant programs that encourage teachers to develop new and innovative teaching methods, and public-awareness campaigns for geography.
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. It reaches more than 285 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and its four other magazines; the National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; videos and DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, log on to nationalgeographic.com; AOL Keyword: NatGeo.