Sunday, December 28, 2008

Geopolitics and Geography

On Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" cover, there is a map. Yes, it's hard to see unless you're looking for it. Otherwise you'll focus on the image of Barack Obama.

The map in the upper left hand corner underscores the importance of the Middle East and that fact that it is one additional crisis of the many that Obama faces as he takes office. Time could have used an image of a militant, terrorist or pirate but a map is the only way to depict the problems that impact a concentrated region of the world that continues in turmoil.

And yet somehow I think it speaks to our lack of geographic awareness, our lack of geographic knowledge both of juxtaposition and history. U.S. students continually under perform in a fundamental understanding of geography, culture and politics. It's time that those of us who live in and supposedly understand a world of digital geography where global communication is instantaneous that we take time to better understand cultural geography and teach those who don't.

Mr. Obama faces huge challenges in the Middle East, as every president has since Jimmy Carter. As a man whose expectations could not be greater to impact world opinion, he has an opportunity to impact an even more important audience...our elementary educators and the children they teach.