Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Education: The Critical Importance of Geography

Once more, a defence of the importance of geography - this time from the "Burkean Library: Conservative Perspectives on Political Issues"

One of the woeful effects of liberal education in recent decades is the decline of geography in primary, secondary, and higher education.  A lot of this has occurred due to the 1960′s emphasis on the vapid euphemism of social studies instead of solid and rigorous intellectual grounding in specific disciplines such as history, geography, economics, and political science.  Understanding geography is critically important if we are to understand local, state, regional, national, and international political, economic, historical, cultural, military, diplomatic, and social events.

Let’s start on the local level.  If we live in a city, we live on streets or boulevards which connect to other streets and boulevards taking us to destinations we frequent regularly such as work, the grocery store, schools, churches, government offices etc.  How many people can tell exactly how they get from their home to workplace without using a GPS or a traditional paper map?  I doubt many could.  How many people can say which rivers or other bodies of water are in our near their residence?  Can they tell where those bodies of water originate and where they flow to.  For instance, I live near the Wabash River which originates in Ohio, flows through north central Indiana before heading southwest and flowing into the Ohio River.  The Ohio River, in turn, flows southwest into the Mississippi River, which flows south into the Gulf of Mexico.  How many people can tell how to get from their home town or county to their state’s capitol city without resorting to a map?

People need to understand geography to be able to understand the economic patterns and agricultural characteristics of the areas where they live.  Here in my part of Indiana, corn and soybeans play particularly important roles.  In other areas of the country, agricultural products as varied as cotton, citrus fruits, fruits such as cherries and strawberries, various vegetables, pork, poultry, and seafood products assume precedence.  When we go to the grocery store or farmer’s market to get food we should know exactly where that food came from regardless of its domestic or international origins.

Geography’s importance is also important in political representation.  I live in  Indiana’s 4th Congressional District which covers a significant percentage of western Indiana and is represented by conservative Republican Todd Rokita.  Indiana’s 7th district is in Indianapolis and represented by liberal Democrat Andre Carson.  Congressional, state, and local legislative districts around the U.S. and in other countries are drawn to produce particular political results in legislative elections.  Some districts are more politically competitive than others and the competitiveness and partisan nature of these districts can change over time given evolving economic, demographic, and social conditions and beliefs.  Individuals and nations also need to understand how geography affects the weather in the region where they live.  Residents of western U.S. states know that water is a particularly important and scarce commodity due to the aridity inherent in many parts of that country.  During the summer of 2012, residents of  Indiana and other midwestern states experienced the consequences of drought which impacted the aesthetic appearance of our yards and the prices we paid for food.  Whether this drought was part of naturally recurring climatic cycles or human-caused climatic change, we were impacted by this climatological phenomenon regardless of our beliefs on what caused this drought.

Geography influences the interests, prosperity, and fortunes of nation-states.  For many years, the U.S. was protected from international conflicts by the water barriers of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  That ended during the 20th centuries and the U.S. is now vulnerable to nuclear assault, terrorist attack, and cyber attack just like all other nations are.  For centuries, the United Kingdom rose to and achieved unparalleled global power without a large standing army because of the strength and power projection capabilities of the Royal Navy.  Germany and Russia became globally significant powers because of their armies.  China’s increasing wealth is allowing it to become a major economic and military power with global reach.  Numerous countries in the Indo-Pacific region are affected by  China’s rise including Australia, Japan, India, and the United States and are working to develop methods to mitigate China’s potential challenge and threat.

Our global economy is heavily dependent on international trade through the air and, most prominently, by oceanic trade.  Many of the goods and services we buy in the U.S. have to cross thousands of miles of ocean to reach the U.S. before traveling even further to reach local marketplaces or online vendors.  If these trade routes are cut off by natural or human caused disasters, it affects us in many ways including higher prices and the potential long-term cutoff of potentially important medicine, food, software, or other products.

Educational institutions at all levels need to quit wasting their time teaching fraudulent flimflam like diversity and promote the vital importance of geography to their students and faculty.  Contemporary technology makes it possible to present geography in a variety of exciting and informative ways.  Any reasonably intelligent man or woman should be able to identify where they live on a map, be able to tell how to get from their home to work or other significant locations without using a computer, and be able to understand how weather affects their local geographic areas and international geographic areas as the tragic typhoon which recently struck the  Philippines demonstrates.  When we hear that the mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada is in legal and political trouble for smoking crack we should know exactly where Toronto is located geographically in relationship to our own home and understand that, since this is Canada’s largest city, it would be like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg getting in political and legal trouble for the same offense.  We need to become familiar with the locations of geopolitical crisis regions like the Gulf of Aden, Malacca Strait, Taiwan Strait,  38th parallel in Korea, the South China Sea, and Arctic Ocean.

We may want to hide behind our social networks and personal computing devices and think we can ignore geography.  However, geography does not ignore us and we are exposed to it every time we leave the comfort of our houses and local residences and venture out into the broader world.  Geography must be understood as a concrete and continually evolving reality and not  interpreted through the distorted ideological lenses of leftist imaginations racked by the delusions of racism, sexism, patriarchalism, homosexual romanticism, imperialism, secularism, structural inequality, critical studies, and other residues of diseased hearts and minds.

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