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never say never! bieber fever! no, not really.

March 8, 2011

this is actually a pretty good go, if a bit generalized. via the folks over at xkcd.com.

whoo hoo!  geography and education month shall kind of officially start.  sam’s wrap up was so good huh?  good wrapper that kid.  killed it.  i hope the title of the post didn’t throw you off.  this post will have nothing to do with never saying never or with mr. bieber.

so.  EDGEYOUKAYSHUN!  yeah.  been a lot of talk about education lately.  lot about it in the media.  michelle rhee.  tiger moms.  whisperings of america falling behind other countries in the sciences and at the same time grumblings of the need for more arts and music and other creative things in the classroom curriculum.  funding.  standardized testing.  lots and lots and lots of talk.  not so much lots of doing.  so, in keeping with the general trend, we’re going to spend this month talking some more about it but not really doing much of anything.  cool?  cool.

i have a lot of interests within the realm of geography and education.  for starters i’m interested in addressing this tiger mom business which in my mind falls into a cultural geography of education arena.  i also think it touches on some interesting issues regarding immigration/emigration and education.  aside from that  i believe for me this month will probably break down into four distinct areas:  the geographies of education, geographic education/literacy, personal geographies and geographical imaginations.  but i’m not holding myself to that.  as you may have noticed i can quickly become rather tangential.  but if i had to guess, and/or gamble…i’d say most of my thinkings and writings for this month will fall under one of those four broad headings.

i suppose for this post we’ll (and buy we’ll i mean we will and by we will i just mean i will) only go so far as to briefly break down these four ideas.  on a very basic and superficial level geographies of education focus on comparing and contrasting educational issues on a spatial scale.  this could be standardized test scores, or looking at who excels at what subjects in what parts of the world, or looking at funding, or using qualitative research methods to figure out the importance placed on education in different neighborhoods, regions, countries.  hopefully we’ll be able to discuss a few of these topics with you this month.  geographic education/literacy is pretty simple…educating people in geography.  obviously there are various discussions to be had about what deems someone geographically literate, and about what we should be teaching in geography classes, and at what ages and heaps of other topics.  all of which i look forward to delving into this month.  and then we have personal geographies and geographical imaginations.  these two ideas are often used interchangeably and although they are most certainly close confidants, they are also very different and distinct in my mind.  to me our geographical imagination is akin to our mental maps; how we visualize our neighborhood, our community, our region, our country, our world, particularly in regards to places we’ve never been or experienced directly.  for example, this new yorker cover:

obviously it’s a joke, but you get the general idea.  our geographical imagination is our spatial organization.  if we take this a bit further i will admit we enter a sort of gray area between geographical imaginations and personal geographies.  when we start looking at what occupies that space that we’ve imagined…what do we think those people are doing, how do we see the people, places and things that live and move within those imagined geographies…this is the transition zone from geographical imaginations to personal geographies.  for better or worse i believe this transition zone currently is a zone where a lot of value judgements are made; about other people and places as well as about ourselves and our current space.  personal geographies, for me at least, take that extra step further and delve into how we relate to that world…how do we see ourselves within those various mental maps, at different scales.  what is our role in the those geographies we have visualized?  where do we fit?  how do we identify and relate?  are we even capable of relating?  how do we interact and connect with those people and places that we’ve imagined to occupy various spaces and places?  this map below might be seen as an example of that transition from geographical imaginations to personal geographies…obviously what happens in this transition phase has a huge impact on our personal geographies and our ability to relate or identify with other people and places, particularly if we’ve never experienced them first hand.  anyway, click on the map for an extra big version that you can actually read to see the tory atlas of the world.  it’s not judgmental or stereotypical or imperialist at all.

tory atlas of the world

i’m really interested in how we create both our geographical imaginations and our personal geographies…what the most important factors are in building geographical imaginations and personal geographies.  i realize this enters the realm of child psychology, and sociology but i’ll throw out some thoughts and ideas on it anyway.  on a further child psychology and sociology bent i’m also interested in the impacts, the manifestations of these various geographies on a person’s life.  what are the consequences of an accurate versus inaccurate mental map?  what if someone has a very accurate map of their state but a highly skewed map of the world?  how might that impact them differently than someone who has a more generalized but more accurate maps of state, region, world?  what influences that transition zone and how can we make it less stereotypical and value judgement dependent?  and then, perhaps most importantly in this day and age, how do those processes of imagining impact our ability to relate and connect?  how do they impact our feelings of belonging, our perception of our role within the larger map?

so this is what you have to look forward to from me this month.  i honestly have no idea what sam is cooking up, so i’m looking forward to finding out, seeing as how he rocks kitchen business pretty hard.  all the best things:  writing, cooking, eating, singing, dancing, music making, geographying (yes it’s a word even though your spell checker and your graduate professor might try to tell you otherwise), laughing, food fighting…they all take place in the kitchen.  in the geography of the home the kitchen is the most productive place.  let’s not over think this and take it somewhere it shouldn’t go hmm??  anyway, point being, not only do i look forward to writing this month but also i look forward to seeing what sam whips up.  you too huh??  alright then.  we’ll look forward to it together.  cheers.

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