Geographical literacy has been in the news this week, thanks to some recent coverage on CBC. The initial news story discussed a Sociology professor’s belief that students lack “elementary” geographical literacy. Charles Mather, Head of Geography, responded to this article in interviews with Leigh Anne Power and Anthony Germain on two of CBC Radio’s morning stations in Newfoundland on Wednesday, January 16.
While acknowledging that levels of geographical literacy are low at Memorial, Dr. Mather argues that shaming students or having students identify geographical features on blank maps out of context is not effective: “Instead of giving students blank maps, [we] integrate geographical literacy and…integrate geographical knowledge into the courses that we offer.” He offers an example from a first year course offered by the department. Students doing GEOG 1050: Geographies of Global Change – a course that deals with Arctic and Northern Rim countries – are able to identify geographical features of the region because these are “integrated into particular sets of knowledges and processes so that they make sense for students. For example, our students can locate Mary River on Baffin Island. And they know where Mary River is because it’s a huge iron ore resource, it’s part of a bigger drive to extract resources from the north and because there are likely to be considerable logistical problems in getting the ore out of this remote location”. He continued, “We think this is a way of getting students to have better geographical literacy.”
Listen to the full interviews here: