Geographic literacy.An oxymoron?

By Joe Francica

In this new year, be it resolved that you could contribute to the well-being and education of a minor.Perhaps you are, like I am, appalled by the lack of geographic literacy, especially in the United States.Most people could not point to a map and find Paris, France, let alone Paris, Texas.Were it not for a terrorist attack, few would know the whereabouts of Kunduz, Kandahar, or Kabul.

If you are a parent, quiz your kids on geography, not just math or spelling words.Put an atlas in their lap and have then comprehend the spatial juxtaposition of San Francisco to San Marino, Kansas City to Kiev, or Ladakh to Calabria.

So what does this have to do with the "Business of Geography?" Everything if you are a seeking a career (or trying to hire!) as a military planner, diplomatic attaché, public official, or corporate executive.An understanding of geography, both physical and cultural, is a critical business skill and one we far undervalue in our educational system.Many global political problems today are caused by a lack of understanding of historical geography.Afghanistan is a current example.For a history of its tribes, geography and culture, see Afghanistan Online.Or the following New York Times article: US Vows to Help Stabilize Afghanistan

I applaud the efforts of the National Geographic Society's sponsorship of "geography bees," GIS Day by ESRI, and the's website on geography, as well as the dedication of all geography teachers.If you want to read a fascinating article entitled "Geographic Education and Public Policy, by Harm de Blij, click here.

So, take the time to educate your children (and colleagues!) not just on facts, but on place.

Published Thursday, February 14th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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