National Geographic Education Foundation

Education Foundation Policy Initiative

America Is Facing a Geography Crisis!
A 2006 National Geographic-Roper ASW poll (PDF) reveals an alarming lack of basic geographic knowledge among 18-24 year-old Americans—the most recent members of our educational system:

• 37% of young Americans can't find Iraq on a map.
• One in three young Americans can't place the state of Louisiana on a U.S. map...after Hurricane Katrina.
• Three in four Americans think English is the most commonly spoken native language in the's Mandarin Chinese by a landslide.

Why Geography Matters
Geography is about more than place names and locations. It analyzes and illuminates interconnections between people, places, and environments. In a world increasingly defined by a global economy, cultural migration, and mounting environmental challenges, geography is an essential prerequisite to citizenship and success in the future.

State of Geography Education in America
The good news:
Under the original No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), geography was named a "core" academic subject along with reading, English language arts, math, science, foreign language, history, civics, economics, and art.

The bad news:
Geography is the only core academic subject that has not received designated federal funding since NCLB went into effect in 2002 (download NCLB Academic Appropriations [PDF]).

• Geography is not assessed by all states.
• Many states do not offer geography courses as part of the required curriculum.
• Many teachers lack sufficient content knowledge and training in geography.

Without sufficient funding priority, geography does not receive the attention it deserves in K-12 schools. As a nation—and in each community across the nation—we must rely on our schools to produce geographically literate graduates. With federal help we can ensure that every U.S. high school graduate is ready for the challenge.

What We Are Doing
National Geographic and other geography education groups are working to address the lack of designated funding for geography by joining with members of Congress to bring geography into parity with other core disciplines. The Education Foundation policy initiative has four main aims:

I. To reinforce Congressional and Executive Branch endorsement of geographic literacy as a national priority.
II. To secure federal funding for teacher training and other innovative improvements in geography education at the state and local levels.
III. To establish a national resource for geographic education to share best practices and advances the field.
IV. To ensure that geography continues to be assessed as a core academic discipline.

These goals are incorporated into a legislative initiative called "Teaching Geography is Fundamental."

Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Legislation (TGIF)
The National Geographic Education Foundation has worked closely with geography education professionals and members of Congress to develop legislation, in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act ("TGIF") has been introduced in the 111th Congress as S. 749 (download S. 749 PDF) by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), and as H.R. 1240 (download H.R. 1240 PDF) by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and fellow Congressmen Roy Blunt (R-MO), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Tim Walz (D-MN). TGIF was designed to ensure federal support for geography comparable to the eight other core academic subjects identified by the No Child Left Behind Act.

In order to ensure that all young people acquire the vital geography skills and experience they need, TGIF supports the following objectives:

•Increase student knowledge and achievement in standards-based geography.
•Increase the number of highly-qualified teachers in geography.
•Encourage research in geography education and development and dissemination of instructional materials, best practices, and model programs.
•Assist states in measuring impact of geography education.
•Leverage and expand private and public support for geography education partnerships.

TGIF will accomplish these objectives by:

•Building on the state-by-state, often university-hosted, Geography Alliance program established by the National Geographic Society to expand support for geography education partnerships.
•Authorizing $15 million annually for five years for geography education grants to support the improvement of geography teaching, training, and research in our nation's schools.
•Designating 75% of the funding for state and local education agencies and nonprofit educational organizations worldwide.
•Making the remaining 25% available to support national nonprofit efforts to strengthen geography education around the country.

The legislation is amassing a strong, bipartisan base of support in the 111th Congress. In the House the proposed bill has 103 co-sponsors, and in the Senate the bill already has 23 influential co-sponsors—nearly a quarter of each chamber! (Download list of TGIF Congressional Sponsors PDF.)

What You Can Do To Help
1. Support the TGIF legislation.
a. Write to your Senators and Representatives and tell them that teaching geography is fundamental. Ask them to support reintroduction of TGIF and to co-sponsor the bill, and to support the inclusion of TGIF in the No Child Left Behind reauthorization.
b. Check this page frequently for the latest updates on the bill.
2. Get active in your schools.
a. Download My Wonderful World's self-assessment tool (PDF) to find out if your school is 'geography ready.'
b. Download My Wonderful World's PTA Action Kit (PDF) to approach school administrators, teachers, and parents and ask them to make teaching geography a priority.
3. Bring the world into your home and community. Incorporate geographic learning into your life every day. Download My Wonderful World's Family Activities (PDF) and Top 10 Tips (PDF) for more ideas.
4. Visit for more geography resources and information, and join this National Geographic-led campaign.
5. Tell your friends and community members to support geography education and refer them to this site.

Advocacy Tools
Message Points for Meetings With Legislators (PDF)
A one-pager with key talking points regarding why Congress needs to support TGIF.

News, Press Releases, and Statements
U.S. Senate Version of TGIF (S. 749) (PDF)
The Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act as proposed in the Senate.

'U.S. House of Representatives Version of TGIF (H.R. 1240) (PDF)
The Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act as proposed in the House of Representatives.

Congressional Sponsors of TGIF (PDF)
The current list of Senators and Representatives who have co-sponsored TGIF in the 111th Congress.

Key Geography Education Facts (PDF)
A summary of recent data on the geographic literacy of U.S. students and the status of geography in education.

Summary of NCLB Appropriations for Core Subjects (PDF)
A chart showing the amounts recommended and appropriated for "core subjects" under No Child Left Behind from 2002-2009.

Map of State Geography Education Funds (PDF)
A map showing where state geography education funds created by National Geographic are located.

High Growth Industry Profile: Geospatial Technology (PDF)
An industry profile of the Geospatial Technology sector provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Tracking the 111th U.S. Congress
A free online service providing information on the status of federal legislation, voting records, and other congressional data from official sources.
A free online service that tracks proposed legislation and analyzes its financial impact.

Why Geography Is Important (PDF)
An overview of why geography matters from the Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education at Texas State University San Marcos.

A Path Toward World Literacy (PDF)
What students should know and be able to do in understanding geography at various grade levels.

Repositioning Geography (PDF)
An Education Week editorial by Daniel C. Edelson about the place of geography education.

Benefits of Geographic Literacy (PDF)
A one-page summary of ways geographic knowledge benefits the individual and the nation.

McRel Study (PDF)
A nationwide study showing that teacher professional development results in significant improvement in student achievement in geography.

Action Tools
My Wonderful World PTA Action Kit (PDF)
A toolkit for PTA leaders on how to assess your school's global readiness.

Is Your School Geography Ready? (PDF)
A self-assessment tool for teachers to determine if their school is "geography-ready."

My Wonderful World Top 10 Tips (PDF)
A list of the 10 best ways you can help students get the most out of the world.

My Wonderful World Family Activities (PDF)
An activity guide that includes games to play in the car, fun activities for home, and more.

Visit My Wonderful for facts, tips, games, and more about geography education brought to you by a 26-member coalition of leading business, media, and nonprofit organizations.