Under the title ‘Pupils desert geography lessons’, The Times of 25 November 2004 contained a revealing little article.
“Geography is the worst taught discipline in schools and leaves children with little understanding of the world around them,” it attributed to Ofsted, the schools inspectorate. Ofsted claimed that Geography as a subject was “neglected and marginalised” in primary schools and that secondary pupils found it “boring and irrelevant”.
Ofsted inspections of schools had found that geography lessons for 11-14 year olds were “not sufficiently relevant or stimulating to capture pupils’ interest and persuade them to continue learning at examination level.”
Well done, Ofsted, to discover what those with any scientific understanding of the world and the relevance of school lessons have known for a long time! Geography has been appallingly badly taught. Not because teachers are incompetent; not because it is not a potentially fascinating and valuable subject; but because monopoly capitalism dare not allow the subject to be taught sensibly.
So it is compartmentalised. You get topics on physical geography and raw materials quite separate from topics on trade and economic development. You can study Europe or North America, but not in the same module as Africa, Asia or South America.
The reason for this is clear. To study the world in its geographical interconnections would be to reveal the relationship between the imperialist countries and the subjugated and super-exploited countries. It would expose ‘globalisation’ for what it is, namely imperialism. It would cut through all the double talk with which we are continually bombarded, like ‘world order’ and ‘peace keeping’. If the real situations to which these phrases are so cynically applied are properly analysed, they are seen to describe exactly the opposite of what they mean!
And what is true for geography is true for so much else in the content of current education. How can a system that is so rotten with decay, so moribund, so long past its sell by date, possibly enthuse the young and up coming generation? It dare not even speak the truth.
David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, said: “We need to engage pupils more purposefully in geography and, most important of all, ensure they enjoy it.” He went on: “Water shortages, famine, migrations of people, disputes over oil, globalisation and debt are all major issues with which our world is grappling and this is the geography of today.”
Yes, indeed, Mr Bell, but learn to replace bland and deceitful phrases like “disputes over oil” with a true description like “genocidal wars of aggression for oil and hegemony perpetrated by the imperialist powers on the peoples of the world ‘unlucky’ enough to have oil below their land”. Tell it how it is!
And if you really want to “engage pupils more purposefully” so that they grapple with the real issues of the day, then start working for the overthrow of imperialism. Only when imperialism is replaced by socialism will our schools really be able to educate young people in the proper sense of the word. And only when our young people become engaged in the struggle to achieve the overthrow of imperialism will they really begin to understand the world in which they are growing up.