Geography's impact on social science education

Geographic knowledge has become minimized in U.S. high schools as emphasis on core subjects has replaced elective courses. Even at the elementary level, Geography is embedded in other social science curricula. With the sole exception of fourth graders, American students’ geographic knowledge at all other grade levels has consistently declined for lack of emphasis in the discipline. The current study explored the relationship between studying Geography and World History, and examined whether Geography education contributes to improved academic performance. Transcripts of 238 high school graduates from one Central Valley California high school were examined to determine whether completing a Geography course improves students’ academic outcomes related to World History course grades or overall GPA. No statistically significant differences between groups were found in regard to students’ academic performance. However, only 12.6% of high school graduates in this study had taken a Geography course, and only a quarter of them completed the course before taking a World History course. Descriptive results tend to indicate that there may be a positive effect if geographic information precedes the study of history. Descriptive results revealed that, in general, students who complete a Geography course early in their high school careers (before World History) tend to outperform those who complete Geography after taking World History. These results indicate the need for studies in this area that involve inferential analysis of data. Such studies may provide a more definitive answer.