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Bring back geography lessons

Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says Geography has been ditched as subject and replaced with "Global Citizenship."

Michael Gove's latest plans to return credibility to the exam system are wise and welcome.

They include prioritising traditional, core subjects to prevent schools from improving their league table positions by encouraging the take-up of  'Mickey Mouse' subjects which benefit schools, but damage the prospects of  youngsters who take them.

Conservatives should also ensure that knowledge-based exams dictate the curriculum, instead of allowing a knowledge-free curriculum to control exams.  Rigorous exams are the key to raising standards, but how many of those directly involved appreciate the depth of the subversion?

Little more than a decade after school history was destroyed by a pseudo-subject calling itself 'new history', geography has suffered a similar fate.

Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum: Reviewing the moral case for geography by Alex Standish documents the replacement of physical geography (whose primary purpose is learning about the physical characteristics of the world) with lessons promoting 'global citizenship'.

The author is assistant professor of geography at Western Connecticut State University. Before moving to America, he taught in the UK, so he covers the situation here in some depth.

'In England and Wales', he writes, 'the curriculum based on geographical knowledge and skills rapidly began to unravel from the mid-1990s, as a result of three dynamics that  led to the subject's new focus on global citizenship: a shift in government education policy from a defence of subjects to psycho-social objectives exemplified by the new citizenship national curriculum, the growing influence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the production of national curricular documentation and general teaching materials, and geography's self-reinvention as global citizenship education by some prominent geographers.'

'This transition', he adds, 'was facilitated by New Labour's rise to power in 1997. Tony Blair's Third Way approach to politics and education led to scepticism towards traditional subjects and calls for a complete re-invention of education with psycho-social objectives, similar to those already in place in the US education system.'

Professor Standish also emphasises that, 'geography's global citizenship education suits those with progressive ideals, who are more interested in extraneous political and psychological agendas than teaching [pupils] about the geography of the world.'

Project-based teaching which, only a couple of weeks ago, was boosted by Sir Jim Rose's plans for changes to the primary curriculum, also comes under fire:  'It is evident that very different educational objectives were being pursued through enquiry-based projects...The significance of the projects was their focus on the values and attitudes the students hold towards social and political events, rather than the knowledge and skills they need to acquire to become competent geographers.'

This confirms yet again why 'progressive' educationists are so keen to remove traditional subjects from the curriculum – getting rid of the structure of subjects makes it easy to hide the loss of content and knowledge. And lessons that enable young people to develop their cultural identity. The  'progressives' can then increase their politicisation of the curriculum, knowing they have what they describe as 'a captive audience' for their ideology.

The evidence is there – and growing.

But how many local authorities have a copy of this book?  How many have taken action to eliminate  the dangers it exposes?


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