Prof says students can’t identify continents, ya but…

CBC News – Professor says students can’t identify continents on map

http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/offbeat/story/2013/01/14/nl-students-dont-know-geography-115.html Also video:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2013/01/14/nl-students-dont-know-geography-115.html

Ya but! Ok, I’m not surprised that college students can’t identify continents on map. Yes, maybe it’s worse but before we go nuts, let’s assess. Sweeping statements are always suspect.

A real time, on camera pop test, does not assess an accurate status nor identify causes. It gets a university and a professor plenty of press time.

Adler makes the simple assumption that high school teachers don’t care. Of course they do! But the scope, sequence and emphasis of skills is not really up to them. Ministries, exams, interest groups all put pressure on what topics and skills get the most resources and energy. Actually mastery is also another issue mostly ignored because our culture and school system desires to add more and more items into the curriculum. The basics get push back. Another assumption we all make is that our ‘digital natives’ by an act of birthright just acquire skills because they are wired.

Nothing could be more nonsense! In fact, I believe geo-spatial skills are in fact depreciated with the increase in screen time we all experience. Just because Google Earth and GPS is awesome doesn’t mean we use them or make connections cognitively with spatial comprehension and our real world experience. If a college sophomore spends time in Spain and still cannot identify where on a map or globe it is located; is that the schools’ fault? Is that a testimonial for education reform? I think not.

Adler is correct when she claims that if schools had geography proficiency tests and identified schools that the test scores would improve. Sure. Teachers adapt and have the ability to deliver but they don’t decide that. Increasingly, contrary to popular myths, teachers have less autonomy in the classroom. Her suggestion generates more collateral issues, but, additionally, I suspect if we assessed the general knowledge/skills of her college students AFTER university, we might also find some shocking and easily disputed trends. Sure, I disturbed by the lack of geography skills in youth, but I’m concerned about many things- reading. The list could be extensive, however, no other time in human history are we expecting so much of our high school grads. The scale and volume of curricula is immense. Schools are taking on the psycho-social training items that were for centuries always a parents jurisdiction. I could go on… I believe if parents could take back careers, health, nutrition, and sexual guidance, etc, then perhaps we could get our youngsters back to geography mastery. Professor Adler, in spite of a legitimate concern, forgets that her Sociology curriculum isn’t the only worry in 2013! A small gesture of comprehension and empathy toward a complex issue would be nice before she rants wise on national TV.

Ps. I’d love to find out more about the student demographics in the survey. I suspect the sample group comes from a range of socio-economic and high school back grounds, not just public schools as popular press is assuming. Stay tuned…

A professor at Memorial University says her students desperately need to brush up on their geography.

Students in Judith Adler’s class have trouble indicating the Atlantic Ocean and Europe on a blank map.CBC
Each semester, Judith Adler gives students in her Sociology 2270 class a pop quiz — something she now requires her students to pass in order to pass her course.

The course studies sociology of the family, and Adler teaches the material from a cross-cultural perspective.

“I’ve assigned work on families in Africa, families in Asia, families in South America. And for many years, I just took for granted that if I talked about families in Africa, that my students had a visual image of where Africa was,” she said.

Adler decided she had to make sure her students knew the locations she was talking about. She handed out a blank map, and gave her students simple instructions: Identify Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

“The results were really mind-opening to me,” she said.

“They should not be confusing Antarctica and the Arctic, and they should know that they live on the Atlantic Ocean … and they should be able to know where North America is.”

Adler described the test as extremely elementary, adding she’s had to make it even simpler over the years. This year’s results were no less shocking.(CBC)

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Al Smith
Literateowl.com @literateowl literateowl@gmail.com

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