Why Geography Should be Taught in Schools

Why Geography Should be Taught in Schools

Quinn Kennedy, Editor

Every once in a while, another American late night talk show host comes out with a skit in which they ask people on the street to find countries on a map, and they usually fail miserably. Even worse are other viral videos where American adults can barely label the states in their own country. Why do Americans, including prominent politicians, struggle with geography so much, especially compared to other countries? The answer lies in our flawed education system. 


According to U.S. News, only seventeen states require a geography course in middle school, and that number drops to ten for high school. Additionally, around half of social studies teachers only spend ten percent or less of their time focusing on geography in general. These factors combined lead to American students scoring poorly on geography assessments; they are not proficient in a very important skill. To fix this, we need to place the same amount of importance on geography that we place on math, science, and English. 


Why is geography important enough to dedicate a class to? At a very basic level, it is important for people to have an awareness of the world around them. Knowing at least a little bit about other states, countries, and cities provides important context to current events in the world. Geographic information could provide insight into why countries are fighting, the circumstances around human rights abuses, or why certain countries are more susceptible to natural disasters. Also, geography classes could teach essential skills in reading and understanding maps. Despite the fact that most people use their phones to help them navigate, knowing how to read a map is still a very important skill, partially because technology is always fallible. Furthermore, studying geography can help people learn more about other cultures. In an age where society is divided, especially over different cultures, ethnicities, and religions, it is necessary to learn about others so we can better understand and accept them. 


If these arguments are not convincing enough, consider this: American schools dedicate entire classes to other auxiliary subjects. Physical education, music, and art are arguably less important than having geographical knowledge. At the very least, geography class would be comparable in usefulness to a computer class or a health class. Too many Americans have insufficient knowledge about the world —and the people— around them, and it’s time to change that.