When I make memes about education, I usually put them in my own Aw, Professor format. I was moved to make my first Two Red Button meme, however, when I learned of the alacrity with which the Massachusetts General Court* moved to address the apparent paucity of venues for sports gambling in the Commonwealth*.
The news came as I have been struggling against geographic illiteracy, which seems to have become even more severe than it was before the pandemic. If only the General Court had ways of addressing both problems!
It turns out that it did, but chose not to. In 2011, following an EarthView visit to the historic State House, the only Representative with a geography degree helped us to file An Act Relative to Geography Education.
This was a relatively simple bill that called a symbolic geography day each year and for a commission to investigate the status of geography education in the Commonwealth. We garnered sponsors in both parties and both houses of the Legislature. With testimony from educators and students, we won a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Education -- again, with support from both houses and both parties. Even though this was explicitly a no-cost bill, the Senate Ways & Means Committee refused to advance the bill to a vote. In a subsequent session, we got through that committee, only to be thwarted by the Senate Committee on Bills in the Third Reading. That is an actual thing -- a very small group of legislators that party leaders can use to prevent anything they do not like from getting to a full vote.
This drama played out in the 187th Session of the General Court. It happened again, with small variations in the details, in the 188th, 189th, and 190th session. During those four sessions, my fellow geography educators and I met many legislators and their staff members. We even spoke about it on AM talk radio, though we were not welcomed on local public radio.
We did not manage, by the way, to have any conversations with either of the governors who were in office during this time. Our one meeting with the first Massachusetts Secretary of Education took place the day before he took office, and he told us there was nothing he could do. Except draw a salary, apparently. He went on to be a "professor" at Harvard, which is infamously opposed to the study of geography.
We have never gotten a floor vote on the question of geographic literacy, and we have not tried in the past two sessions. I honestly think we would win such a vote, which is why someone in the bureaucracy has worked so hard against us.
Maybe we need to work the word "casino" into the title of our next bill.
*Note to people living in the other 49 states: I just used the pilgrim-era terms that we still use for "legislature" and "state" around here, where tradition is a big deal.
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