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Tenn. Geography Curriculum; Key Cabinet Picks; Update on AAG Resolution Supporting K-12 Geography Education

March 07, 2013

AAG Urges Tennessee to Maintain Separate Geography Curriculum         

On March 5, AAG Executive Director Doug Richardson sent a letter to Commissioner Kevin Huffman of the Tennessee Department of Education urging Huffman and his colleagues to preserve stand-alone geography courses for Tennessee’s K-12 students. 
Richardson’s letter is in response to a proposal by Tennessee officials to combine the state’s geography and history curricula by moving geography instruction into history classes.  Emily Barton, Assistant Commissioner for Curriculum and Instruction, explained that the change is being considered to allow teachers “to focus on literacy expectations” of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which have been adopted by Tennessee and most other states.  The CCSS specifies goals for the language arts and calls on teachers to focus on reading and writing skills in other classes.          
The AAG letter, however, asserts that “Geography education is… central to preparing students to be informed citizens and economically competitive in a rapidly-globalizing world.”  Richardson also noted that “Employers in all sectors, including private companies, government agencies, and non‐governmental organizations (NGOs) have indicated that there is a pressing need for more students graduating today with geographic science and geospatial skills.”    
Tennessee officials plan to release a full draft of the state’s revised plan later in March and will consider public comment on the matter.  Several AAG members have already been engaged in urging the Department to maintain a distinct geography curriculum. 

Obama Makes Key Cabinet Picks

Through the first few months of President Obama’s second term, much attention has been focused on the President’s nominations of John Kerry for the State Department; Chuck Hagel for the Pentagon; and John Brennan for the Central Intelligence Agency.  The White House, however, has also named three key appointees that could have a significant impact on the geography community during the next four years. 
Sally Jewell is the President’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior.  Jewell has been the President and CEO of the major outdoor-gear retailer, REI, and would replace Ken Salazar.  She is trained as a mechanical engineer and spent the first part of her career working on oil fields for Mobil.  Jewell spent most of her career in the banking industry and served on the boards of the University of Washington and the National Parks Conservation Association.  Assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, she will oversee the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and several other key Interior offices and agencies. 
Ernest Moniz is the Administration’s choice to replace Stephen Chu as Secretary of Energy.  Moniz is a nuclear physicist who holds appointments as the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems; Director of the Energy Initiative; and Director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He received his PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford in 1972 and joined the MIT faculty the following year.  Moniz held two appointments in the Clinton administration, serving first as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy and later as Under Secretary of Energy. 
Gina McCarthy has been nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  She is a public health and environmental expert and is currently the administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.  McCarthy’s views on climate-change policy and the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will likely be the focus of her Senate confirmation hearings and some Republicans may attempt to block her appointment.  She spent most of her career as a state-level environmental official, serving as a longtime civil servant in Massachusetts and later as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection from 2004-2009.               

John Deere, Others Endorse AAG Resolution

The “AAG Resolution Supporting K-12 Geography Education” continues to be popular with prominent individuals and organizations.  The document explains the value and importance of geography education and urges federal policymakers to include funding for geography as part of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); to include geography and geospatial education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) proposals; and to enhance geography teacher training.  In recent weeks, the resolution has been endorsed by:
·      John Deere (Deere and Company) – Founded in 1837, John Deere employs over 55,000 individuals and is world’s leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery.  A Fortune 100 company, Deere’s FarmSight products use GPS technology to allow for advanced precision farming.  
·      Governor Eddie Calvo, Guam – Governor Calvo was elected to his first term in 2010 after having served in Guam’s legislature for over a decade.  He is the 8th popularly-elected Governor of the U.S. territory. 
·      Admiral James M. Loy, USCG, Ret. – Admiral Loy served as the 21st Commandant of the Coast Guard from 1998-2002 and subsequently held appointments as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.  Loy currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.



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