1 Visions of geography: an introduction
In considering the image which best reflects your ‘vision’ of geography, perhaps it is the volcano, which is a testament to the ‘awe and wonder’ of the natural world? Or is your vision to help young people make sense of the gross inequalities that exist in the world?
Geography teaching is also about providing young people with the skills that help them fit into the demands of an increasingly globalised economy. There is the argument that geography teaching is at its best when it enables young people to ‘discover’ themselves, perhaps in a unique and unusual setting.
Both of the quotations below express a degree of uncertainty about the contribution that geography can play in the education of young people.
It is important to explore and explain the disjunction between ‘the vision’ – what geographers think the subject has to offer to the education of young people – and the ‘reality’ – what contribution it is allowed to make and what status it really has in the school curriculum for the new millennium.
(Rawling, 2001, p. 18)
Do pupils at large see the relevance of geography lessons to their lives, both now and in the future? Can they spot how the discipline helps them understand how the big, booming world works?
(Lambert and Machon, 2001, p. 201)
You may consider these quotes to be fair reflections of the state of geography today, or you may think they underplay the importance of the subject. The statements, together with the ‘visions’ of geography neatly sum up some of the challenges that face geography teaching in schools at the moment.
The intention of this unit is to help geography teachers carry out a review of their department, and in doing this to deepen their knowledge and understanding of recent debates about the place of geography in the school curriculum. Teachers will be able to look at their departmental handbook and decide whether the statement about the aims and objectives of the geography department need revising.