Saturday, 1 October 2011

Geography: The silent human science

Along the corridors of our school the walls are festooned with images and words relating to the different subjects taught at the school. As i was walking along RE's corridor i was caught by the display of 'RE in the news'. The images and words all directly related to the subject and many news headlines had the subject word in their headline - how fitting i smirked - for it reminded me of my year 7 prep of 'What is Geography?' in which pupils have to research and produce a collage of news headlines linked to geography. Of course if you have not worked it out already the difference between the 2 displays was that the word 'geography', unlike 'RE', was not used by the media in their headlines.

The anecdote above for me encapsulates the problem the subject has at school and the discipline has at university and beyond. Quite simply, geography is everywhere but not talked about publicly - it is not common parlance among the media - thus it is the silent human science!

This was further emphasised by no other than Professor A.C. Grayling - Master of the New College of the Humanities ( He came to the school to talk about the importance of the Humanities as well as his new 'private' university, NCHUM. As i sat in the lecture and heard Grayling in a rather pompous and ebullient mood ramble on about disciplines like Literature, Philosophy, History and even Sociology it became clear that Geography was not going to feature; despite being labelled a 'Humanities subject' in virtually all state schools and being a social science that offers a holistic overview of the big picture! Surely if there was ever a 'Human Science' Geography would be right up there contending for the top place. It is geographers who ask the big questions (philosophy) and propose solutions (albeit in varying guises as oceanographers, environmental scientists, geologists etc); it is geographers who tell stories of the landscape and of past conflicts within nature and between nature and humans (History); it is geographers who have the unique ability to carry out primary research through fieldwork, interpret and analyse data, look at things through a spatial medium and link  'objective' Science to the more 'subjective' disciplines.

In short Geography matters (even Google support us; see link below) - it is in my opinion the silent human science. Our work covers a wide range of scales and we look at a variety of time periods in order to understand the landscape. I hope that in time the discipline evolve into being recognised more as the holistic discipline which is unique it it's ability to provide an overview in helping answers the global problems that society faces today.

It is said that Einstein took up Physics because he found geography too difficult!

Further reading/links:

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