Lesson yet to be learned

One version of a popular internet meme. If you are responsible for the original map, please tell me so I can cite you in my dissertation.

A few weeks ago at the Association of American Geographers, I sent a form letter to my representatives in DC (with a personal change that I’m sure you’ll notice):

February 25, 2012

Dear Representative Johnson, Senator Durbin, Senator Kirk,

The number of people I have encountered who don’t know what Canada is astounds and disappoints me.

For this reason, I am writing to ask for your support of the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act (“TGIF,” S. 434 and H.R. 885).

TGIF would be an important first step in correcting the oversight that has left geography as the only one of the nine “core academic subjects” as recognized by federal education legislation not to have received a dedicated source of federal funding.

Geography education is fundamental to building an informed citizenry that is able to understand and address issues such as global conflict, economic competitiveness, and the protection of natural and cultural resources. Our nation’s current lack of emphasis on geography education has resulted in a crisis in geographic literacy that is jeopardizing our ability to compete in the global economy, our position of diplomatic leadership, and our ability to fill and retain over 70,000 new skilled jobs in the geospatial technology industry.

I ask that you please sign on as a cosponsor of TGIF and help to support this important and timely legislation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Amanda Murphy

A few days later, I got this back:

February 28, 2012

Dear Ms. Murphy:

Thank you for your message in support of the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act, or TGIF, (S. 434). I appreciate hearing from you.

TGIF would authorize a grant to be awarded to a nonprofit educational organization or consortium to enhance the geographic literacy of students in Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Geographic literacy would be accomplished through research, testing, educator training, comparative studies of world cultures, and an open communication by educators to share and improve programs.

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, an understanding of other countries and cultures will become more and more important. In a 2006 survey by National Geographic, only 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 were able to correctly identify Iraq on a map and only 25 percent could find Iran or Israel. More alarmingly, half of young Americans were unable to find New York on a map of the United States.

Geographic illiteracy diminishes our ability to interact with other nations and compete in the global economy. Our teachers should have the tools they need to provide effective geography instruction. TGIF has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Although I am not a member of that Committee, I will keep your thoughts in mind as education issues are debated in the future.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.


Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator


So, at least he’s on it, I guess.

As much as he can be.

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