Geo-Literacy Coalition Responds to 2010 National Assessment of Geography Education with Call to Action

The Geo-Literacy Coalition, a newly formed alliance of major corporations and non-profits, has responded to the release of the 2010 results of “The Nation’s Report Card” with a call for the U.S. to invest in geography education.

The Geo-Literacy Coalition has been formed to advocate for improvement in geography, geoscience, and geotechnology education in the United States. The Coalition’s Founding Council consists of the National Geographic Society, CH2M HILL, Esri, and the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. They have joined together over their mutual concern about the unpreparedness of Americans to make decisions that require geographic knowledge and skills.

In its statement, the Geo-Literacy Coalition argues that low scores on the national geography assessment are the result of decades-long inattention to geography education. It says that geography education should be treated as a strategic priority on a par with engineering and other sciences.

The Coalition’s Founding Council includes two corporations and two non-profits operating in very different sectors. The Coalition’s joint statement reflects the recognition of the importance of geographic education by each member’s leadership for both its sector and the national interest.

For example, CH2M HILL is a global leader in consulting, design, construction, and operations that works on water, transportation, environmental, and energy projects throughout the world. “As a global company working in more than 70 countries, we recognize the importance of geographic literacy in both doing business and in recruiting a future workforce,” says Lee McIntire, chairman and CEO of CH2M HILL. “One of the challenges faced by our clients is developing sustainable solutions that address the impact of worldwide economic growth on natural resources. The more we understand geographic implications, and help future engineers understand them, the more successful we will be at creating these sustainable solutions.”

Esri is the global leader in geographic information systems technology. Every day more than a million people in 350,000 organizations use Esri software to make decisions based on geographic information. According to Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, “Everyone faces tasks large and small every day that require the application of geographic thinking. From navigating in a crowd to forming an opinion about local land-use patterns to thinking about global climate change, we make geographic decisions. Doing this intelligently requires an understanding of our world.”

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is an educational foundation dedicated to education, training, and community-building for professionals in the geospatial intelligence field. USGIF has more than 175 corporate, government, and academic member organizations representing thousands of professionals who develop and apply geospatial technologies to address national security challenges. Referring to the NAEP results, Keith Masback, USGIF’s president, said: “Precision location data has never been so available, and the power of place has never been so important — for individuals, businesses, and for our nation’s security. The low scores indicated in the report should serve as a catalyst for increasing investment in educational programs in the geosciences in order to get our young people competent at thinking and working spatially. We simply can’t afford as a nation to get left behind in this critical area.”

[Source: Geo-Literacy Coalition press release]