Too much for one subject?

5th May 2006 at 01:00
I read your articles about geography in schools with a growing sense of deja vu and loss.

Geography was advanced and buoyed up in the 1970s and 1980s by three successful and innovative Schools Council curriculum development projects.

Prior to these geography had not been a particularly popular subject. The projects raised its status and turned it from a largely factual catalogue into one where the influences on the character of the real world were examined in depth - something decried by Alex Standish as, "moral posturing rather than spatial understanding".

Unfortunately, the most prominent, rigorous and exciting aspects of geographical education developed by these projects were not properly absorbed into the national curriculum and so the subject's once pulsing life blood has drained away.

A much harder problem is the conflict over the definition of geography, which has gone on for many years, and is still the focus of much academic, and not very fruitful, debate.

At one time, much was made of the fact that the subject synthesised a wide variety of factors to make sense of an increasingly complex world. Now the subject's constituents - geomorphology, economic development, urbanisation etc - have been strengthened in their own right, leading to demands to extend its coverage and depth of study at school but without any increase (and often a decrease) in the time available. The outcome has been a regression to bland, almost meaningless facts and insufficient examination of the processes that change the actual geography of the real world.

Until more timetable space is found for the burgeoning constituents of the subject, hope for school geography is limited. Geography teachers may have to accept that the subject might be better taught through a variety of routes rather than a single collective subject which is now at risk from a rising tide of superficiality and a flood of disinterest.

Clive R Hart

3 Cherry Tree Close

Hughenden Valley

High Wycombe, Bucks

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