Now and then certain commentators - usually established ones - venture opinion on the current health and prospects for physical geography (either in its own right, in relation to human geography, or relative to some other field of research). In this editorial I want to consider the way that normative arguments about the future of the field are phrased, seen within wider discussions about geography as a whole (its present challenges and future goals). The education of students, I suggest, has been marginalized in published debate despite providing perhaps the most viable of several possible means by which physical geography might amount to more than the sum of its otherwise vibrant parts. At base I ask: 'What counts as ''progress'' in physical geography?' and 'By what means might it be achieved?'. The second question can only be answered in light of the first, so I will come to it presently. I write as someone who, while not a physical geographer, is strongly committed to the idea that its component areas - and those comprising human geography - have value in themselves but also (importantly) when taken together.