Book Review – Thinking Like a Geographer By Rebecca M. Burley

Thinking Like A Geographer Cover BurleyWell, this work was not at all what I was expecting or hoping for. What was I expecting/hoping for? More of a conceptual methodology of the thinking skills that are needed or are useful in the study of Geography that can be applied not just within lessons focused on geography, but also other areas to increase the students analysis skills and critical thinking.

What this book is … basically it is a complete package lesson plan for geography/social studies for the elementary level. While the book states Grade 2, I would say that it could be applied up to Grade 5 depending on the social and academic level of the students. I also feel that some of the exercises would not be emotionally and thus in turn not intellectually relevant to 7/8YOs and might be better suited for older students.

As a complete lesson plan package, the book is sufficient to provide basically a whole geography component of the class curriculum for the year. The teacher is provided with the worksheets, project assignments and lecture content. Included are even examples of appropriate ‘right answers’ from the students to questions presented within the lectures.

*Copy Received For Review.

Stupidity In Education Seems To Be A WorldWide Epidemic

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It is no secret that I have lost all respect for the Education System in the US for a very long time. It is an issue that is so very broken that it truly needs to be wiped out and completely rebuilt from the ground up again. I am not the only one that feels this way, one of the most famous long time advocates of education reform is Dr. Bill Cosby, whom has his Doctorate in Education. A more recent well known advocate is Matt Damon; and while I do not generally support actors getting into ‘politics’ only cause most do not have true understandings of the ’causes’ that they take up, however, in this case both Dr. Bill Cosby and Mr. Damon have knowledge of the cause they have taken up.

The shame is that EVERYONE does not take up the cause of education. For those of you that think it isn’t your cause, cause you don’t have children or your children are not that young or that old; the level of education of persons in a society directly determines the health, prosperity and future of the society. There are numerous studies that show that better education results in longer lives, better health, higher quality of life, more stable communities, safer communities, cleaner and more progressive communities, higher salaries and more efficient and productive employees, more innovative and inventive entrepreneur.

If you still don’t see how education is EVERY ONE’S concern, let me give you what most of you consider to be the IMPORTANT facts; better education means better jobs, better jobs mean better pay, better pay means better homes, better homes mean more property taxes, healthier employees means less sick people thus lower health care costs, longer lives mean more contributions to pension funds by better paid employees thus insuring better payments to seniors. When education is a primary concern for the WHOLE society it is the WHOLE society that benefits.

If you are a ‘stereo-typical white or black American’ in the US you have to prove beyond any and ALL doubts that you and your child are here legally. You have to provide multiple documents for the child as well as the caretaker of the child, you have to prove not only who you are, but where you live. However, if you are an illegal, undocumented, child with no ‘permanent or real’ home you are welcomed with open arms and given every opportunity including extra classes to learn the languages and classes to catch the child up to grade level. These options are only available to ‘real’ Americans after jumping through numerous hoops and fighting every single obstacle the ‘system’ puts in your way. However, any parent that cannot for whatever reason jump through all these hoops and provide all the papers and PROOF of who their child is, is the one criminalized by the system for the failure of the system to provide the education to the child.

I confess that I figured that only America was so stupid as to be this insane with getting children in school. I was wrong! Serbia seems to be on the VERY SAME TRACK! It seems to lack the desire to improve the state of the Serbian society by ensuring the right to a proper education for ALL Serbian children.

There is NO child anywhere in the world that should be denied an education! EVERY CHILD deserves to have the means by which to pursue their dreams. There are enough obstacles in the world without the opportunity to have an education needing to be one of them. While I understand and appreciate some of the concerns of placing ‘undocumented’ children in the ‘general population’ what happened to regular common sense in the everyday actions of alleged intelligent educationed adults in ‘authoritive’ positions. What happened to the rules being a set of guidelines to provide suggested avenues or options to dealing with issues that might arise? When did the rules become EVERYTHING and the child punished in most cases for things that are not their fault at all.
The CHILD should come first ALWAYS!!!

In this age of technology we have the means to accommodate with little effort or resources many differences in teaching methods. Yet, instead of spending a little bit of money adapting to meet the needs of children we spend much more money on hindering the access by children to even the regular cookie-cutter classrooms. We expand the staff in the office to make sure that we keep as many children out of the classroom as possible and to document their leaving so that the families can be, in some cases criminally, punished for the system discriminating against and persecuting them until they feel no other option.

If you are starting to wonder about the information that you have read so far let me enlighten you some more. Education is a part of the government in most societies, as it should be so as to enable it to be accessible by ALL. That being said to keep the education of any society successful and focused on the child the society as a whole has to maintain the highest core values and thus ensure that education is a primary and properly handled institution of the government. Education is the single most important act for a healthy prosperous society. The benefits of a healthy education system overflow into every other aspect of the society. On the other hand, the lack of such a system will inflict the rest of the society adversely to the severity that the system has been neglected.

You might be thinking; how much more money do we need to throw at the system to fix it?
I would say, NONE, what needs to happen is that the system needs to be rebuilt not added too.
If you eliminate excess ‘administrative’ staff and excess ‘paper’ load then you free up resources that can be used to improve the classroom experience for the student. However, to do this we have to decide that our schools are places of REAL learning – for students to explore, experiment, question, wonder, create and not to be indoctrinated to conformity, oppressed by authority, creatively repressed and forced to be just like EVERYONE ELSE!
How do we do that? It will take your time, your commitment, your focus, your vigilance.

Changing Education in Serbia

As another condition to joining the sinking EU, Serbia needs to reform its education system. There are many countries that need to reform their education systems, some that are more ‘developed’ than Serbia. Part of the ‘issue’ seems to be that the best and brightest of Serbia’s students leave their home country to make it some where else. This basic premise seems to imply that Serbia’s education system isn’t maybe as ‘bad’ as the EU Commission makes it seem. It would actually seem that the greatest reforms should be in the economy and market place as well as in research and development to create an environment that allows for the best to stay home and make their mark on the world from Serbia.
As I said most education systems need to be reformed. Most of them no longer educate, instead they train children to grow into compliant obedient workers for mega-corporations.
This immoral mentality is destroying the culture of humanity. We are not robots. We are creative, curious, adventurous, explorers of the amazing, wonderful world around us. We should be teaching our children to cultivate those traits with respect and morals. Education systems should encourage and treasure the various talents of each and EVERY child. For it is in this manner that we can truly ensure that humanity retains its humanness. We are so focused on advancing our materialistic interests that we forget our cultural needs as well as losing our respect for our heritage, especially if it conflicts with the materialistic advance. This error will be more damaging than any other action by any group or disaster that could impact the planet. It is a complete and total disgrace that not only are we throwing away historical artifacts and locations, we are also not teaching students to value, understand or gain from the knowledge left us by our ancestors.
Serbia is a prime location for a REAL reform in education. Let’s start by showing the EU the door, minding our manners, of course. Then let’s preserve all the history and knowledge of Serbia, both her land and people. Then lets get innovative and motivated and use that rich treasure as our guide for the future. Let Serbia be a new example for how to get it right, how to balance materialistic advances with our humanness. It can be done, we can have both. We can treasure our past and our history and still take steps forward in the materialistic world. This is the perfect time for Serbia to break free embrace her independence and blaze her own path.

It’s Broke, But We Won’t Fix It

The Justice System that is. Matter of fact to call it broken would mean that it has improved. There are more aspects of the system that are broke, corrupt, immoral, abused, or outdated than there are parts of the engine itself. Another example of just how broken this system is, is the recent plea-deal agreement with a member of the DuPont family of Delaware over the rape of his own 3 year old daughter.  As horrendous as this crime is, it is just another example that we would rather hide from truth and not face reality within our society and the superior belief held by the masses that since we are so affluently civilized and crime doesn’t effect us we do not have to worry about it or deal with it.
The reality is that having a proactive, well thought out, effective and forward looking justice system is to the benefit of not only the stability and security of the internal functions of society, but will also improve the health and strength of the society over time. These facts make the justice system second to the education system in importance for the survival and advancement of community. Some of you might argue that health care should be one of the top 2 systems for society, the fact is that the more successful your education and justice the better the standard of health is of individuals within society as a result of the improvement of the health of the whole society.
What does this mean? It means that we need to take the time to face the fact that both our education and justice systems are beyond broken. We need to recognize that both are vital to all members of society, not just those that are ‘handled’ by those systems. We need to not only say equal opportunities, we need to provide them. We need not only say equality for all, we need to insure it.
We have the tools to make the changes, what we need is the courage and determination. We need to remember that all children are different with different gifts and we do have the means, facilities and technology to meet the needs of ALL our children. Understanding and accepting and even appreciating the differences of each and every child is the basis for a successful education system and the first step in creating a fair justice system as well. We need to cease having just one measure for ‘smart’ and one measure for success. Not every child is an academic, not every child is an athlete, not every child is super-star and that is not only okay, it is what is needed. If every child was a doctor or lawyer, then they might be rich but they would not have houses or cars or food or clothes or offices or any of those ‘finer things’ that parents seem to think measure success of their parenting styles.
Our education and justice systems began to fall apart as we changed our values from character and honor and being the best that you can be to how big a house can you mortgage, how fancy a car can you lease, how many ‘toys’ can you charge. We no longer judge people by their actions but by the things they have. The result is that our selves and society are hollow and we are more unhappy, less mentally stable and less fulfilled.
We have become so morally bankrupt that we think privatizing prisons is an acceptable thing. That is the worst thing.

But we need to completely change our punishment and rehabilitation mentality. Prisoners should not be separated from their minor children, especially if they are single parents, unless their crime was committed against one of their children. Part of the ‘punishment and rehabilitation’ should include as mandatory the parent’s involvement and accountability to their child and the life of that child. While I think Amnesty International and other watch dog groups have their place, I think they need to re-think what is humane and what isn’t. Prisoners doing ‘hard labor’ in fair and safe conditions is not in and of itself inhumane. Having prisoners clean their own facilities and grow their own food and participate in daily living activities is not inhumane either. Prisoners do not need to spend their days being idle watching trash TV, that is inhumane and in no way improves their sense of self-worth or allows them the self-respect and sense of pride that comes from being a contributing member of a group. It is these changes in the internal self views of prisoners that will increase their chance of legitimate success after incarceration.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg of changes that need to be made. It would take at least a couple volumes of well thought out and effectively expressed detailed concepts rebuilding both the education and justice systems from the ground up to include all the needed changes and redefined measures of success. Hopefully, this tip of the iceberg will start the thinking and dialogue needed to initiate the change. Change that will benefit EVERYONE!

Random Thoughts About Random Things

So today I am going to point out some random things that display how far we have distanced ourselves from common sense. It just amazes me some days how much most people just go along with the crowd without a single thought. Why do people buy into the idea that EVERYONE has the same DREAM. We don’t! We are individuals, we all have different talents and gifts, different strengths and weaknesses. There is a very good reason for that, it is suppose to take ALL of us using our individual talents and gifts to make the world a better place and to make our quality of life better. It should disappoint us greatly that we no longer encourage individualism but instead blindly enforce conformity.

We think it is best for our children to wear uniforms to school, instead of expressing their individuality. And that is the foundation of uniforms. That is why uniforms are used by military, law enforcement, and prisoners. They are a symbol of being just a part of a whole. In those 3 examples the need for uniforms are for the completion of the mission successfully. However, in the instant of schools, the use of school uniforms has limited the individual growth of our children. It inhibits their natural curiosity and creativity. In most states, the whole purpose of the “education” system is not to educate but to teach conformity and blind obedience.

And with the prison system, while the use of uniforms is appropriate, the system itself is so broken that it in NO way accomplishes the mission of rehabilitation. Matter of fact the prison system works just like the welfare system; it is designed to keep the fallen down and to ensure that the broken remain in pieces. The Cook County Jail is the largest jail in the country and it is also the largest mental health facility in the country as well. As a nation we spend hundreds of millions on luxuries for the ‘public servants,’ which in no way benefits the nation as a whole, yet we release individuals back into society, with no betterment from the start of their incarceration and no path to achieve betterment on their own. And spending money on that would benefit the whole nation, even the greedy corporations that could have a broader labor force and stronger consumer base for their products and services. Which begs the question, why keep them down….

The current state of the US, shows just how much damage can be done when your primary focus is money. When your motivation is greed. When your desire is for instant gratification. When you measure success by the number of things you have. When your dreams come from without instead of within. When you blindly support the inept leaders of your government. When the real leaders of the country are owned by big business. When you allow laws that infringe on basic common sense and human rights. When you surrender unconditionally to terrorism, yet allow a half planned war against terrorists.

If you think the observances are extreme, think, on your own, about these examples. It is illegal in most states to collect rain water on your own property. It is illegal in most counties to grow a garden in your yard. Walking into the Social Security Administration office with picture ID does not prove you are living. You are required by law to purchase products, think of insurance. Everyday you allow the government to infringe on your rights and the rights of your fellow man under the guise of safety and national security. So when you have NO real rights left you have no one to blame but yourself…..cause knowing what the Kardashians were doing and buying the latest shoes was more important than attending the local school board meeting; cause you throw a party every year for the Super Bowl but cannot find the time to vote on election day, both of which fall basically on the same day every year.