Oh, the Places We’ll Go

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My Wonderful World is delighted to be joined today by
Jan Harp Domene, President of coalition partner the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Jan identifies the current election season as an opportunity to make the case for expanding geographic education offerings nationwide, and highlights the PTA’s efforts to get students involved in learning about civics and geopolitical issues.

In light of last Friday’s presidential debate on foreign
policy and the impending global economic crisis, I can’t think of a better time
to be talking about the world and the role we play in it. And by “we,” I mean everybody—not just the people
who want to be President next January. I
tell the young parents who join PTA that they are the future leaders of our
organization, but it’s also true that kids are the future leaders of our
country. They might grow up to be the President,
or they might be the head of their own company, or they might be a leader in
their own community. Whatever path they
take, kids today will almost certainly be more connected to the world outside
our borders than the generation that preceded them.

So how are we preparing our kids for this world that seems
to be getting smaller and smaller? In
addition to the basics like math, science, and reading, are we also teaching
them about civics and art and geography and language? Understanding other cultures, and even our
own evolving America,
is going to be increasingly important as time goes on. Consider this: there are already more than twice
as many people
in the world primarily speaking Mandarin as there are
primarily speaking English—with that gap likely to get bigger in the coming
decades. And what does it mean that in
2050 there will be more school-age Hispanic
children
than school-age non-Hispanic
white children in the United States? Regardless of where we live, the odds are increasing that we’re going to
be talking to people from all over the map. If we’re going to understand one another, a good place to start is knowing
where exactly on that map we’re all from. That’s why we’re so proud to be a
part of the My
Wonderful World coalition
along with
National Geographic and other leading organizations. Working together, we’ve
created an action
kit
to help parents become advocates on behalf of geographic
education.

This fall PTA has been working with the National Student Parent Mock
Election
  to get kids thinking not
just about our elected officials, but about issues like what our trade policies
should be in reaction to globalization and how the energy crisis affects our
relationships with other nations. Some
of the biggest issues during this campaign season haven’t been political issues
so much as geopolitical issues: How
should the U.S. respond to
the tension between Russia and Georgia? How much influence does Iran have on the rebuilding of Iraq? These questions are indicative of the world
we’re leaving our children, so we better get them ready for it.

As the PTA national president, I’ve been lucky enough to
have traveled all over the globe meeting parents and children and teachers. It’s been an amazing journey, and one that’s
convinced me more than ever that we should be teaching our students everything
we can about their wonderful world. Next
time you’re on Facebook, come look me up to see all the places I’ve been. And then let’s talk about all the places
we’ll go.

Jan Harp Domene, PTA National President

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2 responses to “Oh, the Places We’ll Go

  1. Indeed, “identity” and the ways in which people choose their allegiances are often very contingent upon both human and physical geographies. Whether individuals align themselves with a particular ethnic group, social movement, neighborhood, city, state, country, region, or (most often) some combination thereof, they are inevitably acknowledging both real and imaginary borders, and defining themselves in relationship to the wider world.
    You rightfully acknowledge that concepts of identity vary dramatically over space–and time! For example, while residents of Ontario might first think of themselves as Canadian, citizens of Quebec likely prioritize their distinct French heritage over national affiliations. This may change over centuries if Quebec fails to gain its independence, or it may not.
    Thanks for your comment, Regan. And great program “Action-ed!”

  2. What an outstanding post. When I taught history and had to explain to 9th graders that people didn’t always view themselves as citizens of nation states – that before them there were these things called fiefs and tribes and people lived in them whole lives – they would say, “I don’t get it,” or ask “You mean there was a time when people didn’t think of themselves as American, Canadian, French? That doesn’t make sense … what were they?”
    Your post got me thinking about students in 100, 150, 200 years from now. What identity concepts will they take for granted? How will these massive tides of human movement and commerce, as well as the disappearance of distances thanks to our increasingly “wired” world, make it difficult for them to understand that there was a time when people thought of themselves as “American, Canadian, or French?”
    The education you guys are promoting is bang on! As our world becomes more globalized, our next generations will need global knowledge in order to participate effectively and grasp their place in the world. The more we can teach them about our world, the more they will be able to decide HOW they will want to participate.

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