The more things change…

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher who taught geography. This ranged from learning the names of the 50 states, their capitals and locations on a map to world geography. It was one of those classes that opened your eyes to the various climates of the world, how many countries there are and what types of governments they have.

Of course in the roughly 30 years since that class, some things have changed and some things have stayed the same, particularly concerning world geography. The biggest change is that the Soviet Union is no more. What was one of the 20th Century’s largest countries geographically has since broken up into one big country (Russia) and several relatively smaller countries. Their governments have also changed, as some are democracies now and others are still working toward it.

One country that is still relatively the same is China. Its size hasn’t changed, but it’s not the strictly communist country it was in the 1980s. My teacher had a film about daily life in China. He pointed out how the citizens in some scenes were waving little red books about Chinese communism. He noted that just before the cameras rolled the people must have been handed the books as they were all nice and shiny and showed little use.

Now China has a bit more free enterprise mixed into its makeup, although the government’s hand isn’t completely out of people’s lives. Recently one of its newspapers complained about government censorship. The editors and reporters were able to stir up enough public debate that the government and the newspaper came to terms about the issue.

Another area that has seen changes is the Middle East. While its geographic makeup isn’t really any different, politically it’s been going through several shakeups. Regimes have changed, especially in the last year and-ahalf since the Arab Spring.

If anything, the last few decades have shown that one of the few constants in this world is change. I have a niece and a nephew in middle school, and I sometimes wonder what they are learning about geography and what changes will they see over their lives.