The Furey’s sing “It’s a long, long way from there to here” and children on a journey often ask “Are we there yet?”
In life, often it’s a case of “how do you get to…?” and the sat-nav is switched on. Are we over-reliant on the technology, to the extent that there is no potential for self-correction? Consider the link with estimation, having an idea of magnitude.
I came across the word psychogeography when listening to Will Self. The term was coined in 1955 by Guy Debord, based on the impact of the environment on human emotions and behaviour. It’s about exploration, discovery, playing with spaces.
These mental maps are still active, after 50+ years, enabling me to find my way around Exeter recently, finding my old house and exploring the streets and fields where I played. It might have been helped by the fact that Exeter hasn’t changed much in that time.
Today’s children do not have the same possibilities. One grandson is just being allowed to go out with friends, as long as he has a fully charged mobile and credit and makes regular contact, a very clear time limit.
How is this change impacting on the mental imagery of children?
Are they creating useful maps within their heads from which to determine routes?
Do they have an exploratory mentality? Are they free to explore their local area?
If children are asked to draw their routes to school, they vary greatly in detail. Some come by car, so may not pay close attention to the journey, while others walk and may possibly have a greater insight into their locality, although many do not, as they engage in activities other than looking around them.
Are children enthused by maps? Ben Fogle in “The Teatime Islands” talks of being fascinated by islands and travel from the age of six, imagining what life was like on Christmas Island ( lots of Father Christmasses) and the South Sandwich Islands (ham and cheese). Ok, probably not geographical, but surely something like the imagination needed by early explorers, setting off to explore unknown parts, journeys in your head preparing for the actual journey.
If the notion of travel is getting from A to B efficiently, with clarity of images and we talk of learning as a journey, is there a potential link between a possible lack of interest in place, journeys within an area and a lack of mental maps that has an impact on creating the broader skills of joining up ideas? Another case of visualisation missed?
Perhaps geography, in all aspects, should be a core curriculum subject? Just so we know where we are going.