National Geographic Bee Winner Hailed by U.S. Congress

Caroline Braun
for the National Geographic Society
October 8, 2004

The 2004 National Geographic Bee champion, 14-year-old Andrew Wojtanik of Overland Park, Kansas, was congratulated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. The National Geographic Society was also recognized, for its commitment to broadening students' and the public's understanding of the world around them.

The House passed House Resolution 815, introduced by Representative Dennis Moore (a Democrat from Kansas), honoring Wojtanik as the winner of the 16th annual National Geographic Bee in May. It also recognized National Geographic's commitment to geography education and acknowledged the growing importance of geographic literacy as technology and events increasingly cross borders, oceans, and continents.

The resolution noted that surveys consistently show the level of geographic knowledge among people in the United States lags behind citizens of other countries. It cited the 2002 National Geographic/Roper survey of young adults age 18 to 24 in nine countries.

The survey had shown that Americans were outperformed in geographic literacy by young adults in seven countries—Sweden, German, Italy, France, Japan, Great Britain, and Canada. Furthermore, only 13 percent of the Americans surveyed correctly identified Iraq on a map of Asia and the Middle East.

"Andrew's comprehensive knowledge of geography is quite exceptional and probably even exceeds that of many members of Congress," Moore said. "If we are to continue our efforts to develop the most educated citizenry in the world, we must closely examine how to educate our youngest citizens about the world. I hope this resolution is only the first step in Congress's efforts to highlight the importance of geography education.

"Many students in the United States receive only a minimal amount of geography education during their educational careers. In 2001 Congress acknowledged the importance of geography education in school curriculums when it designated geography as a 'core subject' in the No Child Left Behind Act, yet geography remains the only core subject identified in that act without a federal program designed to improve educational performance," he said.

"Congress must honor its commitment to the children of the United States and address the need for improved geography education," Moore said.

Geographic Literacy

Moore said the resolution acknowledged the good work of the National Geographic Society and its commitment to geographic literacy through various means, including its sponsorship of the National Geographic Bee and the successful operation of its Geography Alliance program, which improves geography education at state and local levels through professional-development opportunities for teachers.

"The success of the Alliance program is seen through the achievements of its students. Students of teachers who have been involved in the Alliance program have statistically higher levels of geographic-literacy achievement than other students. Promoting proven, effective teaching techniques, such as those developed through the National Geographic Society Alliance program, will be essential if Congress is to foster greater geographic literacy among American students," Moore said.

"Understanding world geography means understanding people, places, and the connections between them," said Barbara Chow, vice-president of the National Geographic Education Foundation. "Congressman Moore understands how important geography literacy is for Americans if we are to compete and thrive in our complex and interconnected world. We look forward to continuing to work with congressional leaders to mandate geography as a core competency for today's students."

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