It's geography, stupid

16th June 2006 at 01:00
The sea's temperature will rise, the ice-caps will melt and, in the ensuing chaos, only McDonald's and Starbucks will survive.

It's compelling. It's geography.

Teacher David Rayner claims that while wars, political coups and national crises are regularly labelled "history", climate change, famine and anti-globalisation protests against big chains such as Starbucks are rarely defined as "geography" by the media.

So Mr Rayner, geography teacher at the Grammar School for Girls, in Wilmington, Kent, has decided to rectify this by launching a national campaign to raise his subject's public profile. "People have this idea that we're caretakers of locational knowledge," the 57-year-old said. "We know what's the capital of Outer Mongolia. But that idea's 50 years old. TV programmes are being made about global warming. People are looking at what humans are doing in terms of cause and effect. But they don't realise these are geography issues."

Mr Rayner insists that the subject extends beyond ox-bow lakes and glacial valleys: transport problems, energy crises and famines should all be properly attributed to geography.

He is therefore encouraging fellow geography enthusiasts to join his campaign, writing to local MPs and calling for the subject to be name-checked on a regular basis. And he hopes to persuade the media to rethink its negative portrayal of geography teachers. He cites an article on folk music, linking the genre with "real ale and geography teachers". A poorly-delivered speech by Conservative leadership contender David Davis is compared to "a geography teacher recapping on the agriculture of Belgium".

"Whenever they want to make a joke, whether about fashion or under-arm hair, they use geography teachers," Mr Rayner said.

"The current crop of people who teach geography are very young, very active. But they've inherited an image problem. We want to change that mindset and recognise the work geographers do."

David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, said:

"Ox-bow lakes and capital cities are the vocabulary, but that's not geography. It's about the big underlying ideas. But that's lost on the public, which just reinforces the stereotypes of elbow patches and corduroys."

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