For some time, scientists have been saying how serious a problem global climate change is, and a recent poll shows that Americans are finally starting to be convinced. But you wouldn't know it from looking at the attention paid to global climate change in the school curriculum.
Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools and Bill McKibben of 350.org recently co-wrote an important essay for Common Dreams about this startling gap between reality and what our students are taught. Here's an excerpt from "Changing the Climate in Our Schools":
"Maybe you've heard. We are facing a climate crisis that threatens life on our planet. Climate scientists are unequivocal: We are changing the world in deep, measurable, dangerous ways -- and the pace of this change will accelerate dramatically in the decades to come.
Then again, if you've been a middle school or high school student recently, you may not know this.
That's because the gap between our climate emergency and the attention paid to climate change in the school curriculum is immense. Individual teachers around the country are doing outstanding work, but the educational establishment is not. Look at our textbooks. The widely used Pearson/Prentice Hall text, Physical Science: Concepts in Action, waits until page 782 to tell high school students about climate change, but then only in four oh-by-the-way paragraphs. A photo of a bustling city includes the caption: 'Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other sources may contribute to global warming.' Or they may not, the book seems to suggest."
Bigelow and McKibben recognize that teachers' reluctance to embrace interdisciplinary teaching plays a large part in hindering students from learning about such important issues. As they say:
"But the enormity of the climate crisis demands that educators, scientists, environmental activists, parents, and students join together to pull down the barriers between disciplines, and to rethink the curriculum. The cost of continuing with business as usual is too steep.Read the complete essay.
The good news is that addressing this crisis with the urgency that it deserves offers the possibility of revitalizing schools as young people develop the consciousness and commitment that the earth desperately needs."
A curriculum that addresses the most important issues of our time and that helps students become effective thinkers and creative solutionaries is a big part of what humane education advocates. Our students hunger for real-world learning that is meaningful to their lives and that helps prepare them to become thoughtful, conscientious, active citizens.
What schools do you know about that are addressing climate change in a meaningful way?
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