Michael Palin is awfy worried that not enough weans are studying geography.
He wants to make the subject sexy.
The only way geography could have been made sexy for me was if it was taught by the mademoiselle, our school's French assistante who was a pure gamine and absolument belle. An Audrey Hepburn lookalike upon whose every word we would hing. The young lady who made us want to speak French but left us dumbstruck and tongue-tied. But I digress.
Palin suggests pupils should get out more on field trips. That might work. Unsupervised forays with the fifth-year girls into wooded environments.
To add a sense of adventure, the geography class might be bussed out far into the countryside and left to make their own way home with the use of map and compass. This could be fun for the pupils and a welcome break for teachers who would have free periods for the rest of the day. Although pupils may get back quickly using Google maps or satnav.
It should be pointed out to students that if they stick in at the geography, they might end up, like Palin, endlessly travelling the world at the BBC's expense. Or you and me as licence payers to be exact.
I studied geography for two years before dropping the subject to concentrate on being a history man. The only useful bit of information which lingers is how to remember which tropic is which. The tropic of Capricorn is the lower one, that's corn as in foot. There was other stuff like latitude, longitude and contours you had to draw on hills. I was happy to leave all that behind. The only geography man I have known was Douglas Lowe, the Herald's sadly missed golf correspondent, who had a degree in the subject from St Andrews University. His accrued knowledge did not prevent him from applying to the People's Communist Republic of China for a visa to cover a golf tournament which was in Taiwan, Beijing's breakaway capitalist foe. This was typical of Douglas, a happy-go-lucky chap whose devotion to golf left him blessedly free of considerations such as geopolitics.
So, is geography any use? Maybe not when you consider the story of the wee boy who would spend hours poring over his atlas. When asked where Egypt was, he replied: "Page 33."
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