Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't know much about Geography...

Actually I do.  I had the good fortune to be educated at a Catholic school (all girls, uniforms, Mass on Wednesday) in the U.S. which had very traditional views about what should and should not be on the curriculum.  Generic social studies was out.  History and geography were definitely in.  Much of it was rote memorization:  countries, capital cities, mountain ranges and so on.  The good Sisters would be charmed to see that the French school system takes a similar approach.

You might think that Geography would be a rather cut and dry, "just the facts, ma'am" kind of subject.  It certainly does not delve into the grander questions about the meaning of life studied in French high school Philosophy classes.  Geography is a science and it is so much more.  Humans not only modify the physical landscape (changing the course of a river or draining swamps) or have it modified for us (tsunamis and earthquakes),  we also assign meaning to geographical features and then change our minds.  There are borders that shift, countries that change names (and governments), and territories that are cut loose from or are absorbed into other entities.  I am fascinated by the younger Frenchling's geography textbook which is entitled, "Géographie.  France et Europe: dynamiques des territoires dans la mondialisation." (Geography.  France and Europe:  Territory Dynamics in Globalization).  

But one would think that there are a few constants that we could all agree on forever and all time?  The oceans, for example, or continents?

Apparently not.




(Video posted on the Foreign Policy website by Joshua Keating)

One of these days I fear that I am going to wake up and discover that everything the Benedictine Sisters taught me is now completely outdated (if not outright wrong) and now lives in the dustbin of science/history.  I'm going to go out today and work in my garden - my own little bit of earth that I can call whatever I like and modify to suit my tastes.  My hedge is the perfect boundary between me and the parking lot and the roses aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  At least not in my lifetime.  Thank goodness.

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