Geography Education
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Geography Education
Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.
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Controversies in Globalization

Controversies in Globalization | Geography Education |
The Olympic committee and designer came under withering criticism for manufacturing the garments in China.


Two current controversies (Team USA clothing being made in China and Mitt Romney's potential involvement as Bain outsourced jobs) are fundamentally about what Americans think about globalization and the impact of globalization on the United States.  Globalization is most certainly a mixed bag at every scale.  What is intriguing about these controversies is that most Americans see themselves as net 'victims' of globalization, while many people outside the United States would view the United States as an overwhelming beneficiary of the economic and cultural processes that are collectively called globalization.  So what is it?  Do Americans just want to have their cake and eat it too?  Can a country only embrace the beneficial elements of globalization without accepting that negatives  inherently will come with them as a package deal?  How can a country (or the world, individual) maximize the advantages of globalization while minimizing the negatives?     

Alisha Meyer's curator insight, March 24, 2016 9:07 AM
I love how this article talks about globalization as a "mixed bag" and looking at maximizing and minimizing for our good.
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The End of Cheap China

The End of Cheap China | Geography Education |
TRAVEL by ferry from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, in one of the regions that makes China the workshop of the world, and an enormous billboard greets you: “Time is Money, Efficiency is Life”.


China’s economic growth has been explosive. Many people predicting the economic future have used current growth percentages and trajectories to extrapolate into the future. The question that we should ask is: how long can China continue to grow at this current pace? Many signs are pointing to the difficulty that China will have in sustaining these levels of growth. The era of China being the world’s go-to source for cheap manufacturing is dependent on current geographic variables, variables that the economic growth is altering.


Manufacturing prices are rising, especially in the coastal provinces where factories have usually been agglomerated (also known as Special Economic Zones --SEZs). The more success that China has in manufacturing, land prices will go up, environmental and safety standards will increase. Collectively, this will mean that labor costs for the factories will also be increasing as Chinese workers are not only producing but also becoming consumers of manufactured goods with an increased standard of living. This is changing the spatial patterns of employment in China and will impact Chinese manufacturing’s global influence. Sarah Bednarz recommends this article as “a needed update on the new international division of labor (NIDL).”  For more on the topic, see Shaun Rein's book, "The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends that will Disrupt the World."

Roland Trudeau Jr.'s comment, July 29, 2012 10:48 AM
As these laws increase and so does the economy it would seem more work will be pushed out of China. Perhaps in the future China will not be the go-to place for cheep labor. That is excellent news for all those effected by these horrible conditions, but given the loss of jobs with the rise of standards, they may not be so happy.
Jacob Crowell's curator insight, December 15, 2014 1:30 PM

I think this is a very important article. All our estimates on China's growth assume that they will continue to operate the same as they grow more and more. We can see that when economies grow, the standards of living rise,, wages rise, the middle class grows and the cost of production will rise. In the late 19th and early 20th century the United States had cheap labor and was one of the worlds leading producer of goods, but as workers clamored for more money, better working conditions and social programs our cost of producing rose to a point where it was cheaper to outsource labor. With China growing, other countries are more attractive to business looking to protect their bottom line.

Jason Schneider's curator insight, April 2, 2015 9:43 PM

The most popular nations of China and the strongest economies of China appears to be on the edge of the east side of China such as Shanghai, Fujian, Guangzhou and Liaoning. I believe that their economic growth has something to do with the fact that these counties are off the coast of East China sea so when you have tourists of immigrants from the east side of China, most likely, they will visit these counties that are in the far east of China. Overall, China is a powerful country but they focus more urbanization on the far east of China because it's closer to the water and that's where you'll find tourists and immigrants. Also, manufacturing factories, especially in the far east are extremely wealthy which allows higher wages to workers and it lures more people to work in China which strengthens peoples desires to go to or live in China.

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Desperately seeking Americans for factory jobs

Desperately seeking Americans for factory jobs | Geography Education |
As U.S. factories enjoy a pickup in business, and need to hire more people, many are facing a perplexing situation --a dearth of skilled manufacturing workers in America.


Even in a time when so many are lamenting the lack of factory jobs available to American workers because of the outsourcing of manufacturing, factories can't find the qualified machinists and other critical skilled positions to operate a factory at capacity. 

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Why Place Matters in a Global Virtual World

Why Place Matters in a Global Virtual World | Geography Education |

All Business is Local: Why Place Matters More Than Ever in a Global Virtual World.


Yes there are processes of globalization that are reshaping many dynamics, but as John Quelch and Katherine Jocz argue in their book coming out next month, this is an age of semi-globalization.  Even the world's best global brands are highly attuned to local tastes, cultures and patterns.  'Company bosses who focus too much on glamorous global strategy and the big picture risk getting burned in a world where the vast majority of business transactions are local' because of the difficulties in getting the local part of the strategy to resonate with consumers.   


How is the world still incredibly local?  What type of jobs are 'non-outsourceable?'

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Philippines Overtakes India as Hub of Call Centers

Philippines Overtakes India as Hub of Call Centers | Geography Education |
Many companies have moved their customer service lines to Manila to take advantage of workers who speak lightly accented English and are familiar with American culture.


The geography of globalization is epitomized by relentless change and marked by continual turnover.  Cultural and economic factors play significant roles in creating potential advantages for receiving outsourced jobs (whether that is beneficially long-term is another discussion). 

Meagan Harpin's curator insight, October 10, 2013 8:27 PM

Companies have moved their customer service lines to Manila because there the workers speak a lightly accented English and are more familiar with American culture then they are over in India. This shows the maturation of the outsourcing buisness and shows the preference for American English.  

Cam E's curator insight, April 8, 2014 12:41 PM

The fact that so many Filipinos speak English is an important one to understand. This brings jobs to the Philippines, but at the expense of local culture. High income and social standing in the Philippines is often correlated with English, as many of the high-ranking citizens attend universities in the United States and return with degrees, and in turn teach their children English. This marginalizes their own language in a way, and is something to keep aware of, as it's one thing that the United States does not face in many areas, that most other countries around the world do.  


Kendra King's curator insight, April 13, 2015 9:16 PM

I was most shocked by how Americanized these individual were. I understand that the Philippines were under American control for a fair period of time, but the country obtained its sovereign independence of the US sometime in the mid-40s. They have had close to 80 years to develop their own history, yet the author mentioned the citizens were still watching shows like “Friends” and speaking American English better than other foreign English speakers. It just goes to show how a colony is permanently marked by their past. I am not entirely sure this is a good thing, but at least one positive that came out of the US’s impact is that in speaking more American English there are more call center jobs. As the article mentioned, the jobs helped their sluggish economy. Still, the only reason these jobs are being offered is due to the amount companies save. Not only do the companies avoid paying American workers, whose salary is much higher, the companies are also in an area with better infrastructure. So even though the article claims the companies paid more because the Philippine workers cost $50 more than those from India, they save money on overhead and have better satisfied customers! Looking at call centers from the company’s perspective shows that this former colony is just a pawn once again. Therefore, when we look at intent, globalization just becomes negative again.   

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Manufactured Landscapes

This 90 minute documentary is an often painful look and the landscapes of manufacturing and the geography of resource extraction.  This video is VERY slow, so I don't recommend showing the whole video in class, but certain this video would be a good inclusion in a lesson (e.g.-Three Gorges Dam, e-waste or factory work).  This Zeitgeist Film by Jennifr Baichwal focuses primarily on Chinese manufacturing landscapes and the environmental impacts that technology produces that we would collectively like to pretend we can wish them away. 

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How do you tell which car is more American?

How do you tell which car is more American? | Geography Education |
Joe Luehrmann likes American cars, has owned a string of them and is considering buying another. But he faces a problem in trying to figure out what's American anymore.


The globalization of industrial output and manufacturing had erased much of the meaning between 'foreign' and 'domestic' products.  Is it foreign if the company is headquartered in Japan, but has a manufacturing plant in California?  Is it domestic is Detroit company produces the car the maquiladora region of Northern Mexico?  This doesn't even address this issue that any one vehicle has parts that are literally made all over the world.  Interestingly truck buyers are seen as the more patriotic, and companies emphasize their "Americanness" to cater to the cultural and economic sensibilities of their key demographic.

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Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class

Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class | Geography Education |
Apple once bragged that its products were made in America. But it has since shifted its immense manufacturing work overseas, posing questions about what corporate America owes Americans.


The economics of globalization are at the core of this article, Apple just happens to be the case-study.  Why are iPhones not produced in the United States?  While it would be easy to simply cite cheap labor, it is more complicated than that.  Unfortunately for those hoping to rekindle American industry, the problems run deeper than that.  The ability to recruit sufficient highly-trained engineers, flexibility and speed in production are all factors that are decisively in China's corner at the moment.  Big picture, how are these economic factors reshaping the world we live in? 

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Podcast of Manufacturing

Podcast of Manufacturing | Geography Education |

The "This American Life" Podcast (also available on iTunes) often pulls together fascinating stories about American culture and society.  This podcast focuses on the production of the Apple products such as the iPod which as advertized as quintessentially American products.  While we all know that "our stuff is made in China," how much do we know about the geography of industry and manufacturing within China?  This is a glimpse into Shenzhen, one of the Special Economic Zones and the scope and scale of manufacturing of commercialized goods and the working conditions. 

Seth Dixon's comment, January 10, 2012 11:54 AM
Thanks to Duncan Ashworth for finding this link!
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New Balance struggles as last major athletic shoe brand still manufacturing in U.S.

New Balance struggles as last major athletic shoe brand still manufacturing in U.S. | Geography Education |

"Nike? Gone. Adidas? Gone. New Balance, the last major athletic shoe brand still manufacturing in the United States, fights to keep jobs here."   This is an excellent portal for discussing outsourcing, deindutrialization, sectors of the economy and globalization. 

Stacey Jackson's comment, February 7, 2013 5:51 PM
I had no idea that New Balance still manufactured their shoes in the US. Sadly, I assumed they were made overseas as most textiles are these days. I'll have to go out and buy a pair of New Balances now.
Cam E's curator insight, January 29, 2014 2:03 PM

The United States, known for its industrial prowess in the past, has become a shadow of what it used to be. Our economy has taken a major turn to a majority service oriented one, with about 70 percent of our GDP coming from Consumption rather than production. Even since the year 2000 the US has lost around 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs. All that can be said through my limited knowledge on the topic is that a nation which switches from production to consumption will likely fall behind others on the path of technological advancement.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, October 1, 2014 11:10 PM

Unit 6