Contact Lamar Alexander in Support of Geography Education

A quick break from our “regularly” “scheduled” programming to appeal to those of you who live in Tennessee and/or support Geography in K-12 education (which ideally, in the latter case, is all of you).

Following is an update that Kurt Butefish of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance received from the National Geographic Society.  Please read the update and then contact Senator Alexander with the information contained at the end of the message.

Congratulations! It seems that the hard work of Alliances and the persistence of GENIP members (especially AAG) has led to the inclusion of geography in the core areas found in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Geography can also be found in the funding portion of the Senate bill, but is only eligible for competitive grants – along with history and civics – for 5% of the total funds allocated.

As a recap, if you look at the current bill starting on page 313 you will see four distinct sections that will take you through page 320. Here is a synopsis:

  • Section 2302 refers to the teaching of traditional American History
  • Section 2303 refers to American History and Civics Academies
  • Section 2304 refers to National Activities (this includes geography)
  • Section 2301(b) refers to funding

Here is the interesting part…

  • Section 2303: 85% of funding (2301b) will be allocated to traditional American History (these look like the old Teaching America History grants did)
  • Section 2303: 10% of the funding will be allocated to presidential academies (teacher-focused) and congressional academies (student-focused) – very small impact numbers
  • Section 2304: 5% of the funds will be allocated to competitive grants in History, Civics and Geography, with a focus on high-poverty students/schools

Part of GENIP’s (Geography Education National Implementation Project) recent meeting in Washington centered on ESEA. The participating organizations have agreed to share in a common voice to request that legislators make 15% (rather than 5%) of funding in section 2304 eligible for competitive grants. Talks are underway on how to maximize the opportunities for geographic education through collaborative efforts of the GENIP organizations.


Please send a letter or email to Senator Alexander and include the following information with your message.  Here is a link to his email:

His fax number is (202) 228-3398 and his mailing address is 455 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.

Following is some sample text for you to include in your message:

Thank you for positively responding to my previous request to include Geography as a core discipline in the ESEA reauthorization bill.

Geography and the geospatial technologies sectors of the economy are growing rapidly and demand more geography education in K-12 schools so that U.S. location-based technologies industries and the geospatial intelligence segments of the economy can grow.

For more than a decade, geography has been the only federally-recognized core academic subject not to have received any authorized federal-funded program for improvement.  This oversight is having real economic costs that, unless addressed, will continue to compound and have a direct impact on the geospatial services industry.

Because of this, I respectfully request that a much larger portion than 5% of funding in Section 2304 of Senate Bill 1177 be made eligible for completive grants to geography.

On the Fight for (Getting INTO) the USA

I write this, regretfully, not in Roanoke, VA at the SEDAAG Meeting. The abstract/registration deadline proved too tight for me after I moved to Tennessee and began working here. Next year! At least I’ve received word from a few of my colleagues who are there and having a great time. Serious respect is due to my colleague Derek Martin, who took home the honors for best PhD paper. I linked that video because he hates it.

Respect is also due to my colleague Matt Cook, who I just discovered drew inspiration from my site to resurrect his. So, I’ll feed the worm of mutual inspiration its tail and use that as inspiration for me to throw a quick update out there. I’ve relayed a number of fun announcements about new books in the works (both involving and not involving my work), but since I’m knee-deep in the end-of-semester crunch time, I don’t have a whole lot of time to contribute a substantial essay to the glut of web content for now. But there are a couple of items you all may enjoy coming in the next few weeks. For now, here are a couple thoughts about Canada.

In case you’re at all interested in underground/punk culture, progressive politics, or just great writing on underrepresented issues, Razorcake is absolutely essential. It’s a non-profit monthly fully dedicated to the universe it covers, and subscriptions are inexpensive and worth every penny. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute band interviews to the magazine and their (soon to be overhauled, I think) website in the past few years.

For those of you who have access to it, do try to find the latest issue and have a read of their interview with Steve Adamyk of the Steve Adamyk Band. It’s a simple, straightforward conversation about the restrictions that he and his band face in trying to set up shows south of the border (in the United States). Between the months-long application process and expensive equipment rental and management, to simply play three hours south of his hometown of Ottawa (without risking getting banned for years) has become nearly impossible for a musician of his means.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen bands from the Middle East remove all dates from their websites in order to fly under the radar of the State Department, and I’ve heard singers from the Great White North tell crowds “if anyone asks, we’re here for a bachelor party!” Granted, if you knew the latter band I’m talking about (they’re pretty good), you’d probably question their singer’s ability to say anything serious.

Toronto: Exhibit A (source:

Considering what fertile power-pop music scenes Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal have grown over the past decade (or for that matter, have had for decades), it’s incredibly disappointing how our government denies us this goodness by leaning on poorly managed and antiquated border laws. I’ll never understand what the United States accomplishes with roadblocks for visiting artists, forcing musicians to construct elaborate lies just to build their fan bases and bring their music to potentially tens of thousands of fans. Fortunately, countries like Germany have been a boon for Adamyk and bands like his, opening their arms to his music (even releasing records for him). Here’s hoping that the network of American fans will, sometime in the near future, be able to show up and shout along with the solid, hardworking Canadian bands that don’t happen to be filling arenas (and asking their fans to play dress up).