“Back to the Future:  The Expanding Communities Curriculum in Geography Education” Author: Anne-Lise Halvorsen (2009 Heldref Publications)

Abstract:

Halvorsen’s article examines the historical issues behind the use of the expanding communities curriculum in geography education.  Some scholars argue that the curriculum is redundant and say that it should be rewritten.  The opposing side declares that since the system has been in place since the 1930’s, the curriculum should be preserved.  Halvorsen explains how the geography curriculum works and explores both sides of the argument.  To support her beliefs, the author analyzed public school annual reports, institutional education reports, and nineteenth century textbooks.  Halvorsen learned that the expanding communities curriculum originated in the 1800’s and has maintained its level of success since then.  The article concludes with the assumption that geography should be taught starting with material relevant to the child and then expand into more complex material; however, detailed geography should be given at each stage in order to enrich the students’ learning.

Opinion:

I wholeheartedly agree that geography is under-taught.  I am currently teaching government to 12th-graders in the public school.  While teaching on foreign policy, I gave a map quiz over fourteen countries that are currently in the news.  I gave the countries to my students and then gave the quiz three days later.  Only a few students passed.  Many of the students thought England was in Africa, China was India, Israel was the island of Crete, and Japan was Vietnam.  How do students reach their senior year without knowing these basic countries?  I know they are talked about in Global Studies and U.S. History.  So how are they still missing them in the 12th-grade?  Somewhere along the educational process, history teachers neglected their responsibility of teaching students basic geography.  If the students had a full class on geography (which is required in some states), then why are they failing to name the current Big Four?  The solution to this problem is given by Halvorsen.  Geography should be reinforced in all classes.  Social studies is the obvious starting point, but English has literature from around the world, science deals with global issues, and even math has word problems about travel.  Why not incorporate maps into these other curriculums?  Unfortunately, the majority of teachers do not.  Instead, we believe that just because the five o’clock news covers the story, our students know where the story originated.  We must show the students a visual map of the world as we discuss the importance of these countries.  Today, a whole generation of Americans have been firmly established in believing that the U.S. is the biggest country on the map (sorry, Russia!).

– Hannah S. Bowers

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