Why are U.S. Students Bad at Geography?

EDUCATION Nearly three-quarters of eighth-graders tested below proficient in geography on the Nation’s Report Card. Now a new study suggests some reasons why. (U.S. News and World Report) The new government report relied heavily on our own Road Map Project—click here to learn more about the road map for large-scale improvement of K-12 geography education. Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources … Continue reading Why are U.S. Students Bad at Geography?

Photo: globe with a magnifying glass

#tbt: Geography—What do you do with that?

Writer’s note: This week, I’m kickin’ it old school and honoring #tbt (throwback Thursday) by dusting off a Fall 2010 blog post I wrote while interning at National Geographic. This post reveals its age. It was written a few months after the BP oil spill when scars from Katrina were still relatively fresh and when the world was recently pronounced flat. Like most good things … Continue reading #tbt: Geography—What do you do with that?

Careers Q&A with Matt Rosenberg

One thing you can do with a degree in Geography is, well,
teach geography to others. Matt Rosenberg is not your traditional classroom
instructor; rather, he practices his pedagogy primarily via the World Wide Web.
Matt has been disseminating geographic knowledge as About.com’s Geography Guide
for the past ten years and has been a friend of the My Wonderful World
Campaign since launch. Matt has written two books, has been featured on NPR and
PBS, and has won several awards. He holds a Master’s Degree in Geography from California State University, Northridge, is currently attending rabbinical school, and recently became a new
father. We were thrilled that he was able to take time out of his busy schedule
to answer a few of our burning questions.


How did you first
become interested in geography? Did you take any geography classes as part of
your k-12 education?

I actually never took a geography class in primary or
secondary school.  I don’t even remember
being tested on state capitals!  My first
geography class was a lower division introduction to urban and economic
geography course at UC Davis.  With that
class, I fell in love with geography and declared my major shortly thereafter.

What are your
favorite geographic topics to study and/or write about?

I love to write about urban, economic, and political
geography.  When I look at the content
I’ve written over the years, there’s a definite bent toward those topics. I
also like to create lists of the biggest, tallest, most populous, etc.

Your bio says that you’ve worked
previously as a GIS technician for local government, newspaper columnist, and
disaster manager for the Red Cross. Can you tell us a little bit about how you
used geography in each of those careers?

Well, my work as a newspaper columnist took place for the
town paper while I was in high school so it was before I was a geographer.  The other careers were all intimately tied to
geography.  I think that my skills as a
geographer really had a positive impact on my work as a disaster manager for
the Red Cross.  I would work with
demographics, hazard maps, and disaster plans on a daily basis and my
geographical skills helped me understand the relationship between human action
and the physical environment.  Obviously,
working in the GIS division for my local government was intrinsically tied to
my skills as a geographer.

How did you get to
your current position as Geography Guide at About.com? What do you like best
about your job?

I had just finished my undergraduate degree in geography at
UC Davis and was working in the university library.  Part of my job was the library website and so
I was receiving various email newsletters about newfangled things on the
Internet.  I received word that About.com
was looking for Guides to run websites about various topics.  I found that they were looking for a
Geography Guide (the title is unusual but it is somewhat of a cross between an
editor-in-chief, writer, webmaster, librarian, and general go-to person for the
topic).  I applied and created a mock
site while competing against other unknown candidates and I was selected.  My site was one of the first to go live when
About.com rolled out publicly in April of 1997.

I love to share my love of geography with people around the
world.  I love it when I inspire students
to take classes, declare geography as a major, or even continue on into
graduate school in the discipline.  It’s
a wonderful feeling to have that sort of impact outside of academia.  Researching and writing about geography
topics is a lot of fun, too.

What do you hope to
achieve with your website?

Through my website, I hope to teach a passion for geography
to as many people as possible.

What is the most
frequently asked question you get about geography on your website?

I am most frequently asked who I don’t list Scotland as an
independent country on my list of countries of the world. So, maybe it’s more
of a complaint than a question but people from Wales and Northern Ireland don’t seem to write quite as often as the Scots.

Continue reading “Careers Q&A with Matt Rosenberg”

Friday: Geography on the Job

  Hopefully by Friday of Geography Awareness Week, you’ve realized the value of geography.  It’s current, it’s everywhere, and it underlies most of what you do – even if it doesn’t have the word ‘geography’ in it! The last themed-day of our Geography Awareness Week celebration is “Careers.”  We want to draw your attention to geography as a set of skills, as an academic discipline, … Continue reading Friday: Geography on the Job

Mapmakers in the News

National Geographic’s chief cartographer, Allan Carroll, was recently profiled on the Washington Post‘s Kids Page. “I love my work, and all of us here love our work because it involves a really cool combination of technical and creative and artistic [skills],” Carroll says. Read more about Allan Carroll and cartography, then tell us what you think! My Wonderful World Home | About My Wonderful World … Continue reading Mapmakers in the News