Learning the names of rivers and capitals is not enough | READER COMMENTARY

Lucy Hammer, a first-grader at Twin Valley Elementary School in Wilmington, Vermont works on the Ecuadorian flag as part of a class project to transform their classroom to celebrate the World Cup on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

I am responding to the recent letter to the editor advocating a return to traditional geography instruction in K-12 schools (”K-12 schools should teach geography, not ‘social and emotional relevance,’” May 28).

As a proud parent of three children who attended Baltimore County Public Schools, two of whom are now in college and one is still in school, I have seen firsthand the benefits of an education that integrates geography and socio-emotional learning. It’s crucial to understand that education is not binary. Geography is important but should coexist with socio-emotional learning in our increasingly interconnected world.


The argument made by the writer that schools should dust off old geography textbooks and revert to traditional methods overlooks the importance of a balanced approach to education. A well-rounded education involves understanding diverse cultures, which requires factual knowledge and empathy. The objective is not to replace geography with emotional learning but rather to weave them together. This balanced approach respects student diversity and promotes equitable education.

As we strive to prepare our students for tomorrow’s world, we should refrain from using outdated methods or singularly focused curricula. The “good old days” weren’t universally good. We should aim for an education that balances cognitive and emotional growth by blending geography and emotional intelligence. Our goal should be to make today’s education better for all.


My oldest child, fortified with a solid grounding in geography and a deep understanding of diverse cultures from their education, is currently on an 11,000-mile journey around the perimeter of the United States. This self-directed exploration follows a trip last year across the middle of the country, including the so-called “flyover” states. This event wasn’t just a trip made possible by privilege (although I acknowledge that element). It was a journey enabled by hard work during the year, saving money, and requesting travel funds for holiday and birthday gifts.

This is the power of comprehensive education. It equips our children to navigate the world whether crossing city or county lines or simply crossing the street. The education our children receive today should prepare them for the global citizens they will become tomorrow. And to achieve this, it’s essential to understand that learning about the world isn’t merely about knowing which countries are in Central or South America or which states make up the United States. It’s also about understanding these places’ people, cultures and histories.

— Tom Irwin Jr., Nottingham

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