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EXCLUSIONISM IN AMERICAN GEOGRAPHY* Benjamin E. Thomas University of California, Los Angeles One of the characteristics of geography in America has been the tendency to ignore or reject certain types of geography; that is, to more or less exclude them from consideration in the inner circles of the profession. Exclusionism, Type I, refers to the ignoring or granting of only halfhearted support to school geography by university people. It is true that work on educational geography is not highly esteemed by some researchoriented universities and that the profession has need of concentrated research efforts along many lines of scholarly investigation. However, many university professors in respected fields such as history, chemistry, English, and foreign languages have, for many years, considered it appropriate to give attention to the status of their subjects in secondary schools in order to raise high school standards and provide better preparation for the university . The American Historical Association, for example, appointed its first committee to deal with the teaching of history in the schools in 18961 before the Association of American Geographers was established, and has continued to be interested to the present time. The recent involvement of the Association of American Geographers in a program to improve high school geography is a helpful step in the right direction. It is to be hoped that Exclusionism, Type I., will be much less common in the near future. Surely, with the present talent we have in the American geographic profession , it is not impossible to have excellence in the high school as well as on the graduate research level. Exclusionism, Type IL, involves the idea of a profession dominated by university teaching and research, with geographers in government and business excluded or relegated to a marginal role. This practice, along with others, was defeated as a policy by the merger of the American Society for Professional Geographers with the Association of American Geographers in 1948. Since then, geographers from outside the universities have been increasingly involved in the affairs of the Association. On three recent occasions , geographers who have spent much of their careers with the government have been honored by election to the presidency. These men, of course, are Louis Quam, Paul Siple, and Arch Gerlach. This is a further indication that Exclusionism, Type IL, is no longer the divisive, weakening force it once was. Exclusionism, Type III., which is my major topic, results from the well- * Presidential address delivered at the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, Seattle, Washington, June 15, 1962. 1 Gordon B. Turner, "Scholars and the Schools: A Report on the Activities of the Constituent Societies of the A.C.L.S. Related to Education in the Schools," Newsletter, American Council of Learned Societies, Vol. 13, No. 5, (May, 1962), pp. 1-6. Reference on page 1. known custom of defining geography in such a way as to include the parts of the subject in which one is interested, but to exclude the parts which one considers to be uninteresting, unscholarly, incomprehensible, or unimportant. It often causes antagonism on the part of the excluded geographers, leads to useless bickering, and sometimes prevents geographers from combining to improve the status of the discipline as a whole. This kind of exclusionism, detrimental as it is, sometimes arises from the highest of motives. Many a geographer has conscientiously tried to give unity to his subject and to maintain high standards by focusing attention on a central theme and by rejecting the phases of geography which appeared not to contribute to it. We can sympathize with such a man because geography is indeed a vast subject for which one must develop a philosophy and a few central interests. And also, there have been some types of geographic research and publication which contribute little or nothing to academic or practical knowledge and are on such a naive or immature level that we are uncomfortable when scholars in related fields identify our discipline with these studies. The idea that such work can be excluded by definition as "just not geography" is therefore an attractive thought. If, however, a whole group of geographers, a traditional field of geography, or a promising new approach is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1551-3211
Print ISSN
0066-9628
Pages
pp. 7-13
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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