A party of 25 final year Geography students going to Ghana. Because of fog we had an unscheduled overnight stop in Amsterdam. As we walked through the streets, one of the group said to me: Professor Chapman, weve been having a discussion. Which country is Amsterdam in? Who was Napoleon? No-one in the group of eight 2nd year honours students knew nor even Wellington, or Nelson (Mandela?).
World awareness Causes of ignorance Struggles wtihin academe Conclusions
A formal test of 2 nd year students taking an optional course in Political geography And the same test of first year social science students in Denmark for comparative purposes
The facts round which the questions were based are arbitrary and eclectic – though the basic themes are clear :- : knowing something about European expansion overseas; : knowing something about the political alignments of the 20th C; : knowing something about languages, religions and cultures; : something about mountains, seas, rivers, capes and bays; : something about economic commodities and economic inequalities; : knowing something about international organisations; : and knowing a little of the basic cosmology of the earth.
Out of Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Rastafarianism 90% of UK students believed Islam to be the oldest religion. A majority of the British students do not know that India is mostly Hindu believe that Serbia is Islamic and 27% even believed that Israel was Islamic.
Asked to identify on a world outline map Ukraine, Alaska, Angola, Iran, Mongolia, Uruguay, South Korea, and Colombia The only territory that more than 50% got right was Alaska Countries named by UK students instead of Ukraine were: - Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Latvia, Pakistan, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Poland, Turkey, Czech R., Russia, and Romania;
The Danes AND the UK students both thought that Ghana and Angola had been colonised by the French. The question about which of the following countries was last colonised by a European power Cambodia, Congo, Japan, Turkey, Uruguay The modal value for both the UK students and the Danes was for Japan – 36% and 30% respectively.
A majority do not know that most plastics come from oil Hardly anyone knows where rivers run: only 6% could say the Danube flowed to the Black Sea
58) How old is the universe? Circa 15 bn yrs 2:26 59) How old is the earth? Circa 5 bn years 7:17 60) When the universe began, there was nothing but hydrogen. Where did the heavier elements like iron and carbon (necessary for the earth and you and me to exist) come from? From nuclear fusion in stars, which at the end of their life exploded as supernovas 7: 5 61) What kind of nuclear reaction is going on in the sun? The dominant one is fusion 27:16 62) What period in time is associated with 15 degrees of longitude on earth? The earth turns 360 degrees in 24 hours - so 15 degrees represents 1 hour 14: 4 63) What causes tides? The pull of the moon ( and sun)80:54 64) What causes the most extreme tides (spring tides) The pull of the moon and sun in alignment 9: 0 The Cosmos
65) What are the doldrums? The area to north and south of the equator where there are very light or no winds, and sailing boats used to get stuck sometimes for weeks. 6: 3 One enterprising answer was a small Pakistani pancake.
NATO. 45% think it means the North American Treaty Organization as against 43% thinking it is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is then logical that the UK students think it is headquartered in Washington (23%) and not Brussels (7%).
All medical students have to learn the hills and valleys, capes and bays of the human body. Unless they knew the anatomy of the human body, theoretical debate is irrelevant. I have found virtually nothing written in or about university geography in the last fifty years which says what facts should be known. I consulted Peter Goulds (1999)What is worth teaching in Geography ? The answer was the opposite of what I was looking for. …facts are not worth teaching. Not for their own sake certainly. They clutter up the memory, they get out of date, and they can be read about in books. You can collect them out of antiquarian interest………they will never be referred to again for intellectual refreshment. Geography used to be like that. Perhaps in certain places it still is? (1999:239). I challenge this view; I subscribe to the anatomist metaphor.
Geography as the world discipline: connecting popular and academic geographical traditions Academic geography is what is taught in universities – and Bonnett contends that it is that it is mostly about concepts and techniques – stressing spatial analysis – and about the 6 per cent or so of the worlds population who happen to live in white and English-language dominated societies. (Bonnett, 2003: 55).
He suggests that one of the reasons for this bias is a reaction against the tradition of academic geography as both master and servant of empire. Academic geography has therefore lost its status as discipline of the world, and in doing so reduced its status: To put it crudely, we take themes framed and defined in terms of Euro-centric social science and add space.(p59). If sociology is anthropology done at home, so the new –graphy is geo-graphy done at home. Geography without the other Bonnett is adamant that academic geography has to re-engage with school geography and with popular geography.
What facts are students of Geography taught? Two books as comparators. Both are standard geography text books pitched at the end-of-sixth/university- first-year level. Both have a whole-earth title. The first is written by perhaps the pre-eminent British geographer of the first half of the 20th C. Dudley Stamp The World: a General Geography (1934) The second by arguably the most pre-eminent of the second half of the 20th C. It is Peter Haggett Geography: a Global Synthesis (2001) I have coded the 500 figures and boxes of Haggetts book, and the 412 figures of Stamps book, using a methodology for content analysis based on Chapman, Kumar, Frazer and Gaber (1997) and Gould, Johnson and Chapman (1984).
Backcloth and Traffic. Backcloth is taken to be geographical places. Traffic is taken to be whatever is the theme of what the figure attributes to that place(s). For example, Haggetts Figure 8.2 Changing Form of World Cities, has backcloth Carcassone and Bristol, and the traffic urbanization. Stamps Figure 101 An Industrial Town from the Air, has backcloth UK and traffic urbanization and communications. The approach is not partitional, and is also multi-dimensional
When Stamps book was added there was a need for a new word: physical background (phys), Stamps regional descriptions follow the then established pattern of starting with rocks and relief. In Haggetts book, since he is not concerned with any global regional geography per se, and since physical geography has new concerns, and because dynamic environmental linkages are now a more important focus, this conceptual convention is not applicable, and I was not pushed into defining such a word.
Stamp Starts with : the global physical background – atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere Continues with: man on the earth which is essentially about different agricultural and industrial systems, world communications (oceanic sea routes), and human occupations, differentiated between civilised and primitive people. From then on the book is written world region by world region – elaborating first on the physical background and then production – agriculture and industry.
Haggett starts at the individual scale, of people on a beach, to introduce ideas on spatial modelling, and on dynamical physical processes. But it is evident there, and throughout the book, that the linkages between the physical material and the human material are weak, and often not explicit: some kind of osmotic process of integration is left to the reader. Because there is no systematic regional geography, a là Stamp, a continuing integrative focus is absent.
the Traffic frequencies mostly show what Stamp lacks: rectifying policy, culture, demographics, disease and health, an ecological perspective, awareness of malfunction, a focus on urbanisation; and above all, an absence of theories and techniques.
Stamp picks out agriculture with respect to the OEE (English speaking developed world.) This reflects a concern with North American and Australian food production for the UK. The term ben for beneficial (putting something right) is associated with Haggett and the OEE. Things going wrong is also more a Haggett word, but distributed more widely across world regions. For Stamp, regions have climates: for Haggett the world does. Stamp is globally interested in communications: Haggett within the OEE. Since the OEE represents overwhelmingly the example region for Haggett, this pattern is repeated. The multi-regional examples are nearly all from Haggett. General ideas about urbanisation or demography can of course be illustrated with material from several regions. This will inevitably mean selective use of evidence.
Excellent and useful though it is in teaching the practice of the modern academic discipline of geography Haggetts book is neither a synthesis ( especially not between physical and human geography) nor global, despite the claims of its title.
Geography and Area Studies Farmer (1973) discussed the issue at some length. At a time of unprecedented activity in Area Studies British geographers seem relatively less concerned with dedicated specialization by area than at any time in at least the fairly recent past." Farmer took the New Geography (the positivist quantitative revolution) to task for ignoring the historical roots of the subject. His ideal was that it was important that geographers were not just intellectual tourists, choosing different overseas places for different intellectual projects at different times, but that they were dedicated specialists.
What can Geography do that Area Studies do not do? It is all a matter of academic tradition, and the intellectual division of labour. Area Studies are more associated with languages, politics, and cultures. The monsoon is celebrated in Bengali poetry, Bollywood films, and the folklore of farming. In Geographical studies, the monsoon is more likely to be studied in statistical and spatial form, and related to cropping patterns, water management and flooding. Few British Geographers of India start off as Sanskritists, though in time they may learn one of the modern languages and scripts of India. Though Area Studies within the UK is sometimes thought of restrictively as more akin to language, culture, history and politics than anything else, it can be more eclectic even than Geography, and a course in area-specific geography can be a component of an Area Studies program.
Unfortunately, eclecticism can make Area Studies a hostage to fortune. Ludden (2000) reviews the last fifty years and the current state of Area Studies in the USA. In the US, area studies came into being to serve national interests that became more global after 1945. …. Specifically American national interests propelled an American style of area studies and American globalisation at the same time. But since the end of the Cold War, put at 1989, Area Studies have had to fight increasingly hard for their existence : A big shift in the nation-state system would necessarily destabilize area studies, so closely had the two been linked; and after 1989, such a destabilization did occur.
However, this shift continued a process of globalisation that actually began long before and whose pace has actually been faster at various times in the past than it is today ….. What is new today is not the fact of globalisation, but rather its recognition as a central historical process and utilization as a theoretical basis for efforts to reorganize knowledge and power in the world. He also believes that: There is no theory of area studies or of area specific knowledge; there is only a set of institutional, personal, and fragmented disciplinary, market, and professional interests that converge primarily on funding. The organizations that should have taken the lead in forming a broad theoretical basis for area studies are the area studies associations -- the African Studies Association, Association of Asian Studies, Latin American Studies Association, and Middle East Studies Association -- which have done little except tout the importance of their own world area
The failure of the Area Studies Associations in the USA to defend themselves collectively means that the disciplinary model of social science again dominates: The new post-1989 critique of area studies initially came from the SSRC president, David Featherman who argued that disciplinary social sciences were more universally applicable, globally useful, and more worthy of support than area studies. His argument against area studies favored "hard" social sciences like economics, political science, and sociology, which use statistical data, formal models (often mathematical), and positivist, explanatory theory.
In abandoning area specialisation, and going for a global systematic geography, we can interpret the shift from Stamp to Haggett as symptomatic of such examples of the power of disciplinary structures in academia regardless of the consequences for our understanding of the world around us.
Just as Huntington(1999) observed that Westernisation is not synonymous with modernization, and that Westernisation is neither universal nor universalising, so western social science is not universal. Yet, as Milton Singer said: Social scientists in particular cultivated an Olympian complacency about the universality of their disciplines, and... did not feel the need to go beyond the familiar experience of Europe and United States for illustration and proof of their universal principles" (M. Singer, 1964, in Farmer, 1973:3)
Winding Up: introduction The most famous and influential paper ever written by a geographer (described by Farmer as a New Geographer of his own day) is beyond a shadow of doubt Mackinders (1904) The Geographical Pivot of History. Its foundation was an understanding of the specific – the idiosyncratic - form of our earth, the huge environmental variation across space, and an embracing sense of world history at the end of the 500 years of the globalising Colombian epoch. This is Geo-graphy writ large. A more recent example of this scale of thinking is Jared Diamonds Guns, and Germs, and Steel.
Conclusions: Academia may study globalization but it is not absolved from the effects of globalization: we need to recognise the damage being done to regionally specific knowledge-in-context. Geography above all other subjects should recognise this, and respond to its obligations. Let us re-introduce students to atlases, for a start. They should know basic facts of world geography and history. The re-integration of physical and human geography is best achieved within the context of specific regional understanding. (The modern form of this integration may well be associated with sustainability.) This will necessarily mean a change in professional yardsticks for some physical and some human geographers: both need to reach out to each other more. This geography needs and is needed by Area Studies.
Foreshadowing Bonnetts discussion of school and popular geography, Farmer also observed: Whatever else school geography does or does not do, in relation to physical geography, or geographical theory, or geographical technique, it seems to me essential that it must form part of an education in citizenship, in world citizenship. (1973:12) What happens at school follows what happens in the universities.