<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Imagined Country: National Environmental Ideologies in School Geography Textbooks <p> John Morgan <p> <p> Introduction</b> <p> Within educational literature, it is widely accepted that schooling plays an important role in social reproduction (Apple 1979; Bourdieu and Passeron 1977; Bowles and Gintis 1976). However, less has been written about the role that specific school subjects play in such processes. Accordingly, this essay is about the role that school geography plays in social reproduction. It is a contribution to a small but growing body of geographical literature that asks questions about the purposes of geography teaching. Huckle (1985) suggests that geography teaching fulfils both a general and a more specific role in social reproduction. The general role is to sustain a "hidden curriculum," whilst the more specific role is <p> related to the overt curriculum and theoretical ideology. The reality, rather than the rhetoric, of school geography suggests that the majority of lessons cultivate a voluntary submission to existing social, spatial and environmental relations. The subject is generally presented as a body of unproblematic facts, many of them dull, boring, or redundant. Pupils are given a dehumanized and depoliticized view of the world and their success or failure depends largely on their ability to reproduce ideas, skills and attitudes which sustain the status quo. (Huckle 1985:293) <p> <p> Huckle's assessment of the role of geography teaching in social reproduction was written in the mid-1980s. Since then, the practices of geography teaching in Britain have been subject to the process of curriculum centralisation (Coulby 2000), with a common national curriculum in operation since 1991 (Rawling 2001). This has led a number of commentators to argue that geography teaching is being linked to attempts to make it serve the needs of the nation-state. For example, Ball (1994:36) argues that the original Working Group, set up to advise on the content of the National Curriculum, produced a report that sought to reposition the UK in "some mythical golden age of empire." Similarly, Hall (1990:314) draws a direct link between the knowledge to be taught in schools and national ideology: <p> Why should California feature so strongly, without any requirement to undertake a serious study of China? The naming of the Falkland Islands could be seen as one instance of highlighting detail for its own sake and the re-establishment of Capes and Bays which had taken 50 years of hard campaigning to disestablish in the late sixties; alternatively, its inclusion might be seen as a political statement which reifies our Imperial Tradition, which is symbolically out of keeping with our economic future within a European Community. Is Colonel Blimp to haunt us forever, either through the specification of factual knowledge as an end in itself, or of particular places which are tombstones of the past? <p> <p> These accounts go beyond the idea that the content of school geography is neutral and disinterested, and stress the importance of geographical knowledge in processes of social reproduction. Political geographers make similar arguments. For instance, Radcliffe (1999) discusses the processes by which state power is used to consolidate national identities. By means of power relations, the nation-state attempts to provide closure and boundedness to its own project. Geographical practices, resting on the territorial and sociospatial inventories of bounded nations, are central to the state's techniques of power. The "imagined geographies" upon which a social sense of identity rests can be manufactured and circulated by the state through its institutions, orders and discourses. <p> Radcliffe (1999) explains how geographical professionalism and skills have often provided the knowledge/power with which to promote these imaginative geographies. The state reinforces the "obviousness" of the national territory through the creation of the palimpsest of the national map, which is "logoized" into an immediately recognisable symbol. Citizens are "corralled" into certain identities through the creation of discursive power effects around the lines on the map. These structures of feeling are shaped by spaces and practices such as state schooling and a national educational curriculum, as well as by imageries diffused by the media to the general population. The overall effect is to build up a national imaginative geography, an imagined space in which other practices in the name of the state are justified and legitimated. Radcliffe's (1999) work is important for the argument in this essay because it makes clear that school geography is implicated in the processes of "nation-building." However, rather than seeing this as somehow a process of top-down imposition, she stresses the contribution of "everyday" practices, such as those that take place in "ordinary" spaces such as geography classrooms. <p> Similarly, Sharp (2000a) points out that geopolitics, or the spatialising of international politics, is inherent to any representation of political processes, whether at the global, regional, national or local scale. Sharp (2000a:333) argues that whilst the majority of critical geopolitics focuses at the state level, where policy is enacted, dominant images of the world and its workings emerge, not from a single source, "but from the complex—and fragile—workings of hegemony." It is through institutions such as the media and education that people are drawn into the political process as subjects of various political discourses: "The media and education explain the linkages between their audiences and what is being explained in order to provide a context of interpretation. People are told what various changes and occurrences both at home and around the globe mean to them personally" (Sharp 2000a:333). <p> Sharp (2000a:334) goes on to argue that the scripting of global politics in popular culture is also significant, in that it is "within the sphere of popular culture that national cultures are formed and reinforced": "A national culture represents a common source of narratives and understandings which attempt to produce a sense of belonging. These narratives and beliefs are drawn upon to define and explain new situations and their importance to individuals in the community." Sharp (2000a:335) suggests that the wider context of interpretation is important because geopolitical descriptions and arguments often rely upon accepted models, metaphors and images: "These are naturalised —made into 'common-sense' statements—through reproduction in <i>education</i> and popular culture. Through these institutions, people learn about different places, whether this is a list of 'factual' data or a more metaphorical narrative" (emphasis added). <p> This introductory section has sought to show that "school geography matters." The content of school geography lessons serves to provide students with ideas, skills and attitudes that support existing social and economic arrangements. The next section expands on how these processes take place though common educational practices in school geography. <p> <p> <b>School Geography's Role in Cultural Production</b> <p> Ross (2000:154) summarises the role that geography plays in the school curriculum: "The subject of geography necessarily defines social space and territory, given its concern with boundaries (national and physical), zones of activity and notions of regionality: these are inevitably part of the process of identifying people with places, in terms of the identity and nature of a nation." Ross (2000) is suggesting that, rather than <i>describing</i> the world "out there," geography lessons are <i>constitutive</i> of that "real world." For example, in 1998, it was announced that the Fujitsu Microelectronics Plant in Newton Aycliffe in northeast England would shut down. Is the closure of a microelectronics factory in northeast England a local, regional, national or international event? One answer is that it depends on the scale at which we choose to study it. Following Smith's (1993) argument the closure of the Fujitsu factory has a very different meaning as a global event than it has as a local event: the two are clearly coincident, though not identical. <p> The question of the scale at which this example should be studied in geography classrooms is not immediately clear. On the one hand, it could be used as an example of local employment changes and the impact of such changes on a locality. It could also be seen as part of a study of regional and national changes, specifically ideas about a "North-South" divide in the UK or about regional policies. Alternatively, it could be interpreted as an example of the difficulties firms face in operating in a European Community in which exchange-rate variations exist and thus raise the question of national sovereignty. Then again, it might be studied as an example of the shifting patterns of global employment change and the inability of national governments to control events within their own economic space (this was the interpretation offered by the British government when Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the workers who faced redundancy). The point is that this example or event looks different and needs to be treated differently depending on which scale the geography teacher decides to adopt as an interpretative frame. There is nothing "natural" about the selection of scale. <p> This leads to the idea that the outcomes of these "framings" have tangible and material consequences in terms of how students understand particular aspects of their lives. For instance, the decision to teach at the global scale means that a particular slant is put on the event. In school geography, this might be about the inevitability of global shifts in economic production, given the footloose nature of transnational corporations. The message for geography students, then, might be that governments can do little to challenge the logic of global capital. Gibson-Graham (1999) has usefully discussed the pedagogical implications of this. Reflecting on her experience with teaching economic geography, she (1999:81) notes: <p> [I]n those exciting early days, I had yet to take seriously the "performativity" of social representations—in other words, the ways in which they are implicated in the worlds they ostensibly represent. I was still trying to capture "what was happening out there" ... Students were drawn to the certainty and urgency of tracing the "emergence of global capitalism" in particular industrial sectors and regions, and the classroom became a site where the new world order was critically "pinned down." At that point I was not thinking about the social representation my students and I were creating as constitutive of the world in which we would have to live. Yet the image of global capitalism that we were producing was actively participating in consolidating a new phase of capitalist hegemony. Through my pedagogy ... I was representing an entity called the "global capitalist economy," and that representation was becoming common sense to a generation of students. <p> <p> This example suggests that it is through stories or representations such as this that we develop understandings of the world and how to live in it. The contest between rival stories produces our notions of reality, and hence our beliefs about what we can and cannot do. The stories through which we make sense of the world are everywhere. In the media, they are not just in the articles and programmes labelled "fiction" and "drama," but in those on current affairs, sport, party politics, science, religion and the arts, and in those specified as education and for children. The argument is that geography teaching in schools is a form of "cultural production." Just as societies need to produce materially in order to continue, so they must also produce culturally. They need <i>knowledges</i> to keep production going, and geography is just one part of this set of knowledges. While geography may provide some people with technical skills, its more general function is concerned with providing people with an understanding of their location in the world. Cultural production provides concepts, systems and—apparently—"natural" understandings to explain who "we" are collectively and individually, who "others" are and how the world works (Sinfield 1997). <p> <p> <b>Geography Textbooks</b> <p> This argument clearly has its roots in the idea that school curricula perform the role of cultural transmission associated with writers such as Apple, Bourdieu and Passeron, and Bowles and Gintis. The rest of this essay focuses on geography textbooks, which are seen as one mechanism whereby this cultural transmission occurs. Apple (1988:85) is clear about the importance of textbooks in this process: <p> How is the "legitimate" knowledge made available in schools? By and large it is made available through something to which we have paid far too little attention—the textbook. Whether we like it or not, the curriculum in most American schools is not defined by courses of study or suggested programs, but by one particular artefact, the standardized, grade-level specific text in mathematics, reading, social studies ... The impact of this on the social relations of the classroom is also immense. It is estimated, for example, that 75 percent of the time elementary and secondary students are in classrooms and 90 percent of their time on homework is spent on text materials. <p> <p> Blaut (1998:46) has reiterated this statement about the importance of the textbook as a means of transmitting "legitimate" forms of knowledge: <p> A school textbook is truly a key social document, a kind of modern stele. In the typical case, a book becomes accepted as a high school (or lower-level) textbook only after it has been reviewed very carefully by the publisher, school boards and administrators, all of whom are intensely sensitive to the need to print acceptable doctrine. They are concerned to make it certain that children will only read those facts in their textbook which are considered to be acceptable as facts by the opinion-forming elite of the culture. The resulting textbook is, therefore, less an ordinary authored book than a vetted social statement of what is considered valid and acceptable for entry into the mind of the child. For this reason, research on textbooks is, in fact, ethnographic research. <p> <p> These statements suggest that an examination of the textbooks used in school geography can shed some light on the construction of students' "geographical imaginations." There exist a number of important statements about the role of school geography textbooks in constructing readers' ideas about the world. Whilst the earliest studies sought to identify and excise ideological biases in contemporary textbooks and teaching materials, more recent approaches have focused on qualitative analysis of geographical textbooks. Within geography education, notable examples include Gilbert's (1984) <i>The Impotent Image</i> and Henley's (1989) discussion of the forms of language used in school geography textbooks. Ahier's (1988:123) analysis of school history and geography textbooks suggests how the texts serve to reinforce social differentiation (between social groups) and social integration (at the level of the nation): "[I]f most history books located the child at the end of a long process of national development, <i>then most geography books address their child-readers as very specifically located in space around which all other space is measured, placed and compared"</i> (emphasis added). <p> In such "ideology critiques," there is a tendency to assume that texts have a deep, hidden meaning that is capable of being revealed by the informed reader. Gilbert (1989) noted that the structures and metanarratives of ideology critique are too singular and complete. There is too much emphasis on making "heroic," oppositional readings at the expense of investigating the social processes involved in the realisation of textual meaning. Another way of putting this is to suggest that the focus has been on what the texts say, rather than what teachers and students get from them (Lee 1996). More recent work in human geography, influenced by the so-called cultural turn, is more willing to defer the moment at which the meaning of the text is "fixed." Such approaches have sought to stress the importance of the context in which they were read (Maddrell 1996; Ploszajska 2000). Marsden (2001) has written a history of the school textbook in the United States and Britain. In Britain, he detects an "antitextbook ethos" amongst educators, where "ideology critique" has been used to judge textbooks. Though this essay follows in this "critical" tradition, I would argue that, far from invalidating such texts, such critical awareness of their content and approach can be useful in providing meaningful learning for students. Indeed, my own initial interest in these texts came from my experience of using them in classrooms. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Life's Work</b> by <b>Katharyne Mitchell Sallie A. Marston Cindi Katz</b> Copyright © 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.