Educators have always insisted they not leave out the “three Rs”: reading, writing and arithmetic. That paradigm may be shifting to “three Rs and a G” – and world enterprise is most appreciative.
The “G” is for geography – the science that links a range of interests and information from a variety of cultures based on a visual map. This subject is moving to the forefront of the minds of educators as its utility, later in life, in developing business strategy within public and private sectors around the world becomes more and more evident.
As a nation, the United States has received a clear signal from studies like the 2006 National Geographic/Roper survey, which followed an earlier survey in 2002. In the latest survey, young adults aged 18 to 24 in nine countries were surveyed and the results showed that Americans were outperformed in geographic literacy by young adults in seven countries – Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Great Britain and Canada. Only 13% of the Americans surveyed correctly identified Iraq on a map of Asia and the Middle East. Only about half of young Americans were able to locate landmasses such as Japan and India on a global map. And 20% of those surveyed could not find the Pacific Ocean.
But set aside our less-than-satisfactory performance at a Geography Bee, and jump ahead to the terrain of public and private firms where geography has become one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal. Maybe our educational system does not play out well in a Geography Bee, but you need to look at the extra edge firms are getting when they embrace not just geography, but the story that it tells. With the coming of age of GIS, the geography story becomes one where decisions can be made like never before. Almost anything can be plotted on a map.