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This is a project of the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, Department of Geography, Texas State University-San Marcos, funded through a grant from the National Geographic Society Education Foundation. Writing committee members include:

Kristin J. Alvarez, New Hampshire Geographic Alliance, Keene

State College

Marci Smith Deal, K-12 Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator,

Hurst-Euless, Bedford ISD (Texas)

Gary M. Gress, Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education,

University of Oklahoma

Charles F. Gritzner, South Dakota Geographic Alliance, South

Dakota State University

Robert W. Morrill, Virginia Geographic Alliance, Virginia Tech


Zoran Pavlovic, Independent Scholar

Chris Shearer, National Geographic Society Education Foundation Joseph P. Stoltman, Michigan Geographic Alliance, Western

Michigan University

William R. Strong, Alabama Geographic Alliance, University of

North Alabama

Richard G. Boehm (Organizer and Chair), Texas Alliance for

Geographic Education, Jesse H. Jones Distinguished Chair in

Geographic Education, Texas State University

Local arrangements and publication preparations were handled by Judy Behrens, Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education.

Layout and print assistance was provided by John Ballay and Audrey Mohan, National Geographic Society.

Cover photos courtesy of (front to back):

Students using globe. Jen Caito. My Wonderful World

Refinery in Ploiesti, Romania. Winfield Parks, National Geographic Society

Students using a world map. National Geographic Education and Children's Programs

Hurricane Katrina approaches New Orleans on August 25. 2005. Photo courtesy of Ray Sterner and Steve Babin, Johns Hopkins

University Applied Physics Laboratory; NOAA

Wind turbines atTehachapi Pass. California. U.S. Department of Energy

Highway overchange in Montreal, Quebec. Emory Kristof, National Geographic Society

Brisbane, Australia. Audrey Mohan

Why Geography is Important

Geographic literacy is crucial for the future of America. We are now far behind. The 2002 National Geographic/ Roper poll indicated that of nine major countries, the United States ranked second to last, above only Mexico, in a recent survey (2006), only one out of ten Americans, aged 18-24, could find Afghanistan on a map of Asia. Seven out of ten could not locate North Korea, and six out of ten could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia. These are simple map loca­tion questions, further suggesting that Americans may not know much about the economic, political, cultural, or military importance of these areas.

More and better geography in our schools can correct this deficiency. Learning geography will create citizens who are able to understand and do something about some of the major issues and problems facing the United States and the world, including climate change, energy dependence, war and regional conflicts, globalization, and international terror­ism. American decision makers need geographic knowledge to maintain our moral, political, and economic leadership in a world of complex cultural and environmental relationships.

As a measure of its importance, geography has been in­cluded as a "core" subject area in the three most recent national education plans-America 2000, Goals 2000, and No Child Left Behind. Since 1985, the National Geographic

Society has supported a state-by-state program to return geography to its rightful place in U.S. schools (see back cover) .

1. Globalization
Americans increasingly travel and work in areas beyond our communi­ties, states, and nation. We interact with people, companies, and even governments around the world. The widespread Internet, and other information technology systems allows us to experience the world as a smaller and more interactive place. Economic globalization and job mobility require that Americans understand the nature of foreign cultures who represent, on the one hand, a labor force, and, on the other, a market area for our products. Geographic knowledge, skills, and technology provide a means to comprehend the rapidly changing physical and cultural environments of the world, and thus, prepare us to be better global citizens.

2. Cultural Diversity

Geography requires awareness of the importance of cultural diversity-that is, area differences in language, race, religion, and politics; generally, how and why people live the way they do. When American citizens appreciate cultural diversity, many issues and problems may be addressed in a positive manner. This awareness is valuable when we try to make sense of worldwide situations, as well as those in our own country. Our political, diplomatic, military, and economic leaders need to be well versed in cultural diversity, and geography offers a sensitive pathway to such understanding.

3. Technology and the Internet

The information revolution expands our geographic horizons from local to global. Today, use of the Internet, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and other mapping technologies give Americans access to a world of spatial (geographic) information. Whether obtaining and mapping geographic data, finding our way from one location to another, or learning more about specific places, technology has become an integral part of daily life. Many economic, political, and personal decisions now rely on sophisticated networks of com­puters and satellites. These high-tech systems form a global web that links people and places. Geography provides the key to understanding and effec­tively using these systems,

4. Business, Industry, and Social Services

Geographers have long recited the three most important factors in selecting sites for businesses and industry – ­location, location, location! Many large firms employ geogra­phers who specialize in assisting businesses and industries to find suitable locations. The widespread use of GIS is help­ing to identify the best locations for many economic activi­ties. Properly located industries are able to reduce the costs of transporting raw materials and marketing their products. Retail outlets, restaurants, shopping centers, and local busi­nesses may find that a good location results in higher profits and more convenience and accessibility for the general pub­lic. Sensible locations for social services, such as health-care facilities, community centers, clinics, and day-care centers, benefit the users of these facilities by providing more effi­cient delivery of public services.

5. Climate Change

Climatic change is continuous. It affects global, regional, and local environmental conditions. Long-term changes in tem­perature and rainfall can disrupt ecosystems on land and in the water, and require human adapta­tion to varying conditions. EI Nino, La Nina, and reports of global warming are recent evidence of regional and worldwide climate change. Geography is the study of the interaction between people, places, and environments. How climate is changing and what we need to do is a central emphasis of geography. Environmental understanding means good decision making by informed and responsible global citizens.

6. Energy

Critical resources vital to all of us are not dis­tributed equally across Earth's surface. This leads to foreign trade, but also to the real­ity that one country or region is highly depen­dent on another. For example, Japan and Western Europe rely

heavily on the energy resources of Southwest Asia (Middle East). The United States imports large quantities of oil from Canada, Venezuela, and Mexico. These important resource linkages sometimes become strained when political and eco­nomic alliances shift. Geographic knowledge is essential for understanding these complex trade relationships.

earning about geography results in an understanding of how the United States is developing alternatives to heavy reli­ance on imported oil. Wind power and solar power are on the rise. More cropland is being used to grow corn for ethanol production. Hybrid automobiles are being built and expand­ing the use of nuclear power is again being discussed. Also, researchers are trying to find techniques for cleaner use of the world's abundant coal reserves. These are complicated matters with no easy solutions. For example, when land is transferred to corn production for ethanol, acreage devoted to other food crops declines and food prices increase around the world. There are important spatial and environmental aspects to these vital economic and political policy deci­sions. Geography students are well prepared to understand the complexities of such societal issues.

7. Natural and Technological Hazards

Nearly everyone is exposed to natural hazards, including hur­ricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and drought. Some hazard events are much more devastating than others. The Indonesian tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 provided vivid testimony to the dire consequences of living in the pathways of destructive natural hazards. By better understanding these catastrophic events, those who study geography realize the importance of early warning systems and effective local, state, national, and inter­national emergency management and recovery strategies.

Human-generated technological hazards, such as air pol­lution, solid- and toxic-waste materials, and water pollu­tion, challenge us to better manage our interaction with the natural environment. Geography students, at an early age, learn about ways to conserve and preserve our resources, and how important it is to keep our air, water, and land suit­able for future generations. Geography challenges citizens to become better environmental stewards.

8. Transportation
Humans depend upon transportation-the movement of materials, ideas, products, and people-in countless ways. Highways, railroads, airports, seaports, and pipelines are essential linkages that tie people and places together in an increasingly interdependent world. In the United States, the automobile has encouraged urban sprawl and the growth of suburbs. The interstate highway system provides truck­ers with quality links between origins and destinations. In Europe and Asia, people rely on commuter trains to get from home to work and back again. Intercontinental travel most often depends on airliners, soon to carry almost a thousand passengers. Geography, with a focus on the spatial interac­tion between people and places, helps us to understand the need for modern transportation and enables us to plan for the future.

9. Employment­: Business, Industry, and Government

Career and job opportunities for those with an interest in geography are widespread and challenging. Geospatial tech­nology (GIS, GPS) is one of the most dynamic and rapidly expanding workforce categories identified by the Depart­ment of Labor. In addition, jobs are available in environmental fields (water, land, solid waste); social services (health plan­ning, community services); real estate (appraisers, brokers, property managers); travel (tours, travel agents, hotel and resort consultants); teaching (K-12 and university); and vari­ous government jobs, such as transportation planner, remote sensing specialist, environmental compliance officer, area specialist for the United States Department of State, regional analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, and the military. Geographers work in hundreds of businesses and industries, and their knowledge and skills have high value in the work­place.

Our daily lives are interwoven with geography. Each of us lives in a unique place and in constant interaction with our surroundings. Geographic knowledge and skills are essential for us to understand the activities and patterns of our lives and the lives of others. We move from place to place, aided by transportation and navigation systems. We communicate using global networks of computers and satellites. We strive to live in healthy physical and social environments. We work to avoid the negative consequences of exposure to natural and technological hazards. We search for interesting desti­nations for recreation and vacations. We observe and learn about our own culture and other cultures around the world. We want to lead satisfying lives and contribute to the welfare of our communities. Geographic knowledge and understand­ing is fundamental to reaching our goals, and in attaining a higher quality of life.

For more information about geography, visit these websites:

ational Geographic Society - Association of American Geographers - National Council for Geographic Education -


The National Geography Society (NGS) maintains a grassroots network of state alliances devoted to improving the quality and quantity of geography taught in the schools of America. These alliances, on a state-by-state basis, represent a part­nership between university geographers and school teachers cooperating to improve geographic teaching and learning.

The NGS Alliance network is an amazing educational re­source for individual states. But it remains for school officials to include geography in the school curriculum, either as a stand-alone subject or as an important part of the social

studies requirement. .




Rhode Island




South Carolina




South Dakota



New Hampshire




New Mexico




New York




North Carolina




North Dakota






District of Columbia



West Virginia











Puerto Rico

or more information on the Alliance Network visit:

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