For those about to get their university students to address the 'what is geography?' question as new academic years start (in many places), please consider using the UK National Curriculum consultation on Geography as a pedagogical resource.
There are some fascinating documents that will enable the edges and nuances in this debate to be drawn out, students can bring to the discussion their own experiences of Geography at school, this is a 'real' debate about the identity of the discipline which will have 'real' consequences, and students and staff can help to shape these debates online as part of the consultation.
This debate is not just for UK-based geographers. Anyone can take part. One of the key protagonists - whom the UK Government's Department of Education invited to compile a curriculum document - is Alex Standish, Assistant Professor of Geography at Western Connecticut State University.
The consultation finishes on *30 October*, so there's a month to go.
The Geographical Association (the subject Association for Geography School teachers in the UK) have assembled a comprehensive range of documents, papers and opportunities for feedback on its web pages:
The consultation: http://www.geography.org.uk/getinvolved/geographycurriculumconsultation
Background to the consultation: http://www.geography.org.uk/getinvolved/geographycurriculumconsultation/background/
Resources for discussion: http://www.geography.org.uk/getinvolved/geographycurriculumconsultation/resources/
Feedback on the GA's 'Curriculum Proposal & Rationale' document: http://www.geography.org.uk/getinvolved/geographycurriculumconsultation/feedback/
Comment on the consultation, etc.: at the foot of http://www.geography.org.uk/getinvolved/geographycurriculumconsultation
To add to this, a few years ago I was involved with Tracey Skelton, Duncan Fuller and Helen Griffiths in 'Young People's Geographies' - a project funded through the RGS/GA 'Action Plan for Geography' - which aimed to enliven school geographies and to make them more widely/deeply relevant by encouraging students and their teachers to co-create their Geography curriculum. Project resources which might be used in a 'What is Geography' debate include:
The Young People's Geographies website: http://youngpeoplesgeographies.co.uk/about-ypg
Evaluations of the project in Years 1 and 2: http://youngpeoplesgeographies.co.uk/about-ypg/evaluation-reports/
Vox pop videos from student participants, answering questions including 'Have you learned anything about Geography?": http://youngpeoplesgeographies.co.uk/resources-ideas/vox-pops/videos/
From a distance, these discussions may **seem** to range between two 'extremes': Standish's conservative, fact-based rote learning and the YPG's radical, contingent, co-learning pedagogy. This is a crude simplification of a complex debate, but could be a great place to start off the discussion...
There has been some discussion of the consultation in Twitter, and you can find it via the hashtags: #geographyteacher #geographyriot #Standish &/or #NewGeog
If anyone has used these resources before or can recommend any others, please reply to this post. Finally, whether you do this with your students or not, please read the core douments and contrinute to the online discussions on the GA's website by the end of next month.
Thanks and best wishes
Geographical Association Academic Trustee
Associate Professor of Geography
University of Exeter
Exeter EX4 4RJ