Geography education vs. geography learning

January 29, 2010

Angst over the state of education never goes away:

Much more important is the way we seem to have turned away from the very idea of education that sustains a healthy, vibrant liberal democracy.  As I write this I am conscious of how unfashionable it sounds. However, there has been a steady erosion of the notion that education can and should fuel our individual ability to think critically about the world as we find it – which requires knowledge and understanding of how the world has come to be. We are swamped with a language of targets, skills and 21st century ‘learning to learn’, but have forgotten what it is that distinguishes learning (a word that now seems to carry huge weight and always deemed a good thing in itself, when clearly it is not) from education.  All worthwhile education is, in the end self-education, based on the student’s curiosity, their need to know and readiness to rise to the challenge of finding out. Indeed, offering challenge to young people is one way to motivate them – so different from today’s orthodoxy which says we should make learning accessible, bite-sized and achievable by all.

These guys write from England, however, and they write from the vantage point of teaching geography and having just published their book on how better to teach geography.

See their take on what geography teachers should be teaching about Haiti right now.


The debt the U.S. owes to Haiti: The Louisiana Purchase

January 24, 2010

Every Texas school kid learns that the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 created one of the great turning points in American history.  Parts or all of 15 different states came out of the land acquired from Napoleon in that deal.  Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery spent more than two years mapping the newly-acquired territory, and didn’t really scratch the surface of the riches to be found.

Why was Napoleon so willing to deal Louisiana, so cheaply?

What else happened in 1803?  Haiti’s slaves rose up and cast off French rule. Haiti had been the jewel of France’s overseas colonies.   Napoleon became convinced that holding and ruling North American territories could be more pain and trouble than it was worth

So, along came John Jay to secure navigation rights in the territory . . .

CBS Sunday Morning featured a good story on the event, and on Haiti, on January 17.  You can read the transcript here.


Donate to save Haitians, VISA, MasterCard and American Express get rich?

January 16, 2010

E-mail from Daniel Mintz at Move-On.org:

As the tragedy in Haiti unfolds, Americans are generously donating millions of dollars to aid organizations.

But when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a “transaction fee,” even though that’s far more than it costs them to process the donation.

It’s outrageous and wrong—and it needs to stop.

Can you sign this petition to the CEOs of the major credit card companies demanding that they waive their processing fees for all charitable donations? Clicking here will add your name:

http://pol.moveon.org/nofees/o.pl?id=18607-5763840-FH68Wgx&t=3

The petition says: “Credit card companies shouldn’t be getting rich off of Americans’ generosity. They should waive all fees on charitable contributions from today on.”

The credit card companies are trying to get ahead of this story, announcing they will temporarily waive the fees they charge on some Haiti-related charitable contributions for the next 6 weeks. But that’s nowhere near enough. Many emergency donations to Haiti will still get hit with hefty bank fees. (To give a sense of how limited the exemption is, Doctors Without Borders isn’t on any of the publicly available lists of charities that won’t be charged fees.)2

All American credit card companies should announce that they will waive ALL fees on charitable contributions, starting today, and going forward for good. This isn’t about helping political organizations like MoveOn, just helping true charitable organizations.

It’s the right thing to do, and honestly, it’s the least they could do after the role they played in crashing the entire global economy last year.
But they won’t do it unless they know how angry Americans are that they’re profiting off of this terrible tragedy. Click here to sign the petition, which we’ll deliver to the heads of the major credit card companies:
Thanks for all you do.

–Daniel, Kat, Peter, Lenore, and the rest of the team

Sources:

1. “As Wallets Open For Haiti, Credit Card Companies Take A Big Cut,” The Huffington Post, January 14, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=86028&id=18607-5763840-FH68Wgx&t=6

2. “Some Card Fees Waived for Haiti Aid,” The New York Times, January 14, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=86030&id=18607-5763840-FH68Wgx&t=7

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