Teaching a Regional Concept: The Home State Geography Course
Reed, Gregory A.
It seems axiomatic that with most individuals, cultures, and societies, the territory they inhabit becomes the emotional and intellectual center of their world. Aspects of social science education are explicitly or implicitly oriented toward reinforcing an individual's identification of his or her home with his or her political region (state, nation, or other) and the generation of better informed, more responsible, and effectively involved citizens of that region. For nearly a century, geographic educators have attempted to make advantageous use of the relationship between an individual and the inhabited political region known as the home state. If, as Hartshorne suggests, regions are "mental constructions," then the home state is, essentially, a symbolic, areal representation, with an identifiable spatial scale. Since the geographic education process involves transfer of meaning and relevance among macro-environments at various scales, this research is based primarily in transfer theory as conceived in psychology. By exploring past and present approaches to teaching of the home state geography course, it was discovered that the identical, or highly similar elements required for transfer have been, and continue to be, an intrinsic part of such a course. Drawing on subsidiary theories of "optimal stimulation" and "universal mapping," along with the use of cognitive sketch maps, the research demonstrates that the perceived home regions of student groups in seven states are not coincident with the boundaries of the respective home states. Based on these data, normative recommendations are made regarding an "optimally scaled" regional unit at which to begin instruction based on scaled familiarity and familiar representation. And the description which geography gives is of importance to these men who are concerned as to whether this or that is so or otherwise, and whether known or unknown. For thus they can manage their various affairs in a more satisfactory manner, if they know how large a country is, how it lies, and what are its peculiarities either of sky or soil. But because different kings rule in different quarters of the world, and carry on their activities from different centers and starting-points, and keep extending the borders of their empires, it is impossible either for them or for geographers to be equally familiar with all parts of the world; nay, the phrase "more or less" is a fault much in evidence in kings and geographers. For even if the whole inhabited world formed one empire or state, it would hardly follow that all parts of that empire would be equally well known; nay, it would not be true even in that case, but the nearer regions would be better known. And it would be quite proper to describe these regions in greater detail, in order to make them known, for they are also nearer the needs of the state. (Strabo 1969, 33)
human geography, local geography, study of geography, regionalism
Reed, G.A. (2001). Teaching a regional concept: the home state geography course (Unpublished dissertation). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.