Kurt Butefish, coordinator of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance in the UT Department of Geography, wrote an opinion editorial for the Tennessean highlighting the need for Tennessee’s K-12 schools to do a better job of teaching geography.
Butefish noted that geography has real-world applications from the cultural, physical, economic, and political standpoints. Yet, those themes don’t come across in the curriculum in many K-12 schools.
Geography is often taught in hybrid courses that combine history and geography in Tennessee middle and high schools but those courses largely minimize the geography aspects, he said.
“Geography and geospatial technologies, more and more, have real-world and every-day applications for all Tennesseans,” Butefish wrote. “They were used by TEMA, the Sevier County Emergency Management Office and any number of police, sheriff and fire departments to help get first responders to the fires in Gatlinburg and, maybe most importantly, they were used by these groups to aid in the evacuation.”
He added: “The Sevier County Emergency Communications District relies heavily on geospatial technologies to constantly keep track of the location of people and property identified for emergency response. All of the local utilities are using the technology to evaluate damage and reconstruct service to the area. Currently, local elected officials are relying on geospatial analysis to work with FEMA, TEMA, USDA, Department of Interior Park Service and others to tap financial resources to aid in recovery.”