RICHMOND, NOV. 20 -- Gov. Gerald L. Baliles thinks that more Virginians should know where they are in relation to the rest of the world, and he taught a geography lesson today to prove his point.
The exercise, held at John Rolfe Middle School in Henrico County and transmitted to public television stations around the state, was part of Geography Awareness Week, which ends tomorrow.
At a news conference today to promote knowledge of maps, the governor was joined by National Geographic Society President Gilbert M. Grosvenor.
Virginia is one of 13 states that has joined with the society in a Geographic Alliance program designed to teach students more about the world through cartography. Maps and other materials will be distributed to public schools along with teacher training and curriculum development.
"Last year, when I chaired the Southern Governors' Council on International Education, it became clear that Americans know neither the globe nor the cultures of the people who inhabit it," said Baliles, who has said that knowledge and prosperity go hand in hand.
"The situation, as the council reported it, leaves America dangerously unprepared to succeed economically or politically in the global community," said Baliles.
The state, in addition to promoting the teaching of geography, has established the Virginia Geographic Summer Institute, which will be held next summer at James Madison University, and has expanded the state's language academies for students to include the study of Latin and Russian, he said.
The institute is open to all elementary and secondary teachers, but participants will be selected based on criteria developed by the National Geographic Society.
The summer language program established two years ago with a French academy now includes German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
Also, Baliles said he would appoint a state geographer at the recommendation of the alliance. The geographer would serve in an independent, advisory capacity to state and local officials and issue an annual report on geography education in Virginia.