American Elephants

Politics, School Standards, and the Climate Debate. by The Elephant's Child

The AP reports on a new study that says “Young people are not so ‘green’ after all.”The study amounts to comparing the current generation of young people — the Millennials — with previous generation going back about 40 years. The excerpted comments from professors who participated in the study, suggests that the professors are enthusiastic greens, and don’t quite understand why the kids are not.

Beth Christiansen who heads the environmental program at Adelphi University on Long Island said when she attended Rutgers in the 1980s, it was unusual to find a fellow student who had not hiked or spent time in the woods. “Now a lot of these students have very little experience with the unpaved world.”

Some of her students also volunteer with a group that cleans up trash in the bays that surround the island — one of many examples of young people who are taking environmental issues seriously.

At Babson College in Massachusetts, for instance, there is student housing called the “Green Tower,” where residents focus on conserving resources.  It is a growing housing trend on many college campuses.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania students are running a biodiesel plant on campus and building “permaculture,” or indefinitely sustainable gardens in their back yards. They’re less likely to write a letter to their member of Congress or to try to change things on a global level, said Richard Niesenbaum, a biology professor at Muhlenberg. They also don’t like to label themselves as “environmentalists.”

By the time they get to  college, they have had global warming and environmentalism shoved down their throats for 12 years already. No wonder they aren’t so “green” after all.

Climate change is now the premier battle in our nations’ science education, and several national bodies are set to release a draft of new science standards that include detailed instruction on climate change. “The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet. Funny, I just heard a report on the radio that Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, scoffed at reports that the Obama administration was interested in national school standards.

So  you have science teacher Loris Chen, who said teachers should introduce students to “the consensus” on climate change. And a teacher at Corte Madera school in Portola Valley, California last year showed Al Gore’s global warming epic “An Inconvenient Truth” to her sixth grade students, and a father filed a formal complaint accusing Ms. Joi of “brainwashing” the students. The school will require parental permission before students see the movie in the future. It’s time to stop showing that piece of flawed propaganda. And there is  no consensus in science. And I don’t have much enthusiasm for national standards, simply because they’re so bad at it.

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