With Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving all squeezed into the first three weeks of the month, November may seem to be amply provisioned holiday-wise. As resident champion of place-related news here at Oxford, I feel obligated to mention another event that seems to have escaped the attention of calendar-makers nationwide for the last twenty years: Geography Awareness Week. In 1987, the White House launched an initiative to promote geographic education and more recently, broad themes have been assigned to focus the efforts of interested parents and educators. The fact is, be it social, economic, cultural, or otherwise, global interconnectivity is increasing year by year, and an informed citizen (wherever she may live) ought to have some understanding of the relationships between people, places, and environments. As a friend of mine who teaches the subject likes to say, without geography you’re nowhere.
So here at the start of Geography Awareness Week 2007, I have a question for Place of the Week readers: do you know where your atlas is? When was the last time you pulled it down from its perch among your other books? And when was it published? That’s important too. I’d encourage everyone to spend a bit of time with it this week, or at least do some armchair exploration online—the web is teeming with resources that will pique your curiosity and challenge your assumptions about the rest of the world and the sites of organizations like the National Council for Geographic Education or the Canadian Council for Geographic Education are excellent points of departure. This year’s theme is Asia—a rapidly changing continent with a range of human and natural landscapes surpassed only by its sheer physical size. But don’t worry if you aren’t able to name all 23 Chinese provinces, much can be learned about a specific region by spending a few hours listening to traditional music or sampling its cuisine. However you decide to expand your geographic horizons in the next few days though, don’t forget to post your discoveries here.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.