Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act is Misguided

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There are nine core academic subjects in the No Child Left Behind Act. Of the nine, only geography doesn’t have its own federal funding stream. Since 2008, geography advocates have petitioned the federal government for just such a stream, in part by supporting what is called the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act. There is a reason why this act has been introduced and subsequently died in two previous congresses – It is not good legislation.

Out of 15 potential uses for the funds identified within the Act, only a few reference clear, actionable uses. The rest consist of “promoting”, “strengthening”, “encouraging” or “supporting” vague notions including “academic standards”, applying GIS to teaching, and “research”. What does that actually mean?

The language of the Act creates a grant of $75,000,000 spread over five years but fails to designate concrete uses of that money. The Act basically throws money at an issue expecting the issue to then resolve itself. Of course, this should surprise no one since the government’s response to most problems is to appropriate funds. Educators should know better than to see this as a solution but it becomes difficult to see beyond the potential of receiving money, regardless of its dubious origins.

Activists could better spend their time trying to get rid of legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act so we can stop teaching based on federal mandates and standardized tests and go back to student based teaching.