WASHINGTON (March 1, 2007)–National Geographic Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor today presented the first National Geographic Education Foundation Geography Legislator of the Year awards to four members of Congress for their commitment to improving geographic literacy among young Americans. The inaugural awards were given to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
“Increasingly, our legislative leaders realize that young Americans must have a high global IQ if our country is to be internationally competitive,” said Grosvenor. “I am grateful to these senators and congressmen for their leadership in supporting geography education. They are charting the course to introduce geography into the vocabulary of the federal government.”
National Geographic is the world leader in promoting geographic literacy. Motivated by evidence that geography had virtually disappeared from the classroom, the Society in 1985 began an initiative to improve the teaching of geography and elevate its status. The National Geographic Education Foundation has awarded over $69 million for geography programs.
During the 109th Congress, Cochran introduced the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act in the United States Senate. His leadership inspired 17 of his colleagues to co-sponsor the bill in the 109th Congress. Dodd was an original co-sponsor of the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act and he was instrumental in encouraging 16 of his colleagues to join him in co-sponsoring the bill. Recently, Cochrane and Dodd re-introduced the Act as S.727 in the 110th Congress. The goal of this important legislation is to provide dedicated federal funding to programs that seek to improve geography education. The bulk of the funding would support the training of geography educators across the country and provide grants to promote geography research. The Act would also correct an oversight that left geography as the only required discipline in the No Child Left Behind Act that is not funded.
Cochran and Dodd sponsored a Hill event in May 2006 to present the results of the latest National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs Geographic Literacy Study of young Americans and to introduce My Wonderful World, a public engagement campaign to promote geographic education.
During the 109th Congress, Wicker introduced the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and actively recruited 21 members of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation. He now serves as the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Act that was introduced in the 110th Congress on Feb. 28, 2007, by Rep. Chris Van Hollen as H.R. 1228. Van Hollen was an original co-sponsor of the Act in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 109th Congress.