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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   John F. Borowski | Letters to the Editor

White House Writes Obit
for Environmental Education
by John F. Borowski

The views expressed in Letters to the Editor
do not necessarily reflect those of VegSource Interactive.

February 17, 2002 -- George Bush to environmental education: “drop dead”. A just-released 2003 Whitehouse budget, environmental education has been labeled, “ineffective.” The budget calls for a reorganization of EPA, with EE funds being allocated to the National Science Foundation. Page 3 of the report is most telling: “This program has supported environmental advocacy rather than environmental education. The budget transfers funding to the National Science Foundation (NSF) math and science programs so that a consolidated program can better serve educators and students.”

Why the timing? Especially, when environmental education is being well received nationwide? A 2001 Roper/Starch Study confirmed that 95% of parents support environmental education! Part of the study showed from 1997 to 2000, environmental knowledge in the general public showed poor levels of understanding ecological concepts! A 12 state consortium prepared a study called “Closing the Achievement Gap”. It gave rave reviews to environmental education: it showed a high level of subject content mastery (not advocacy), had an emphasis on problem solving, used collaborative learning, and showed those who had environmental education classes scored higher on standardized tests.


 



Better yet, the students had more time to apply math and science in real world contexts and better understood the concepts of the interrelation of these different areas of study. Teachers in this study, reported students developed better interpersonal skills, reduced classroom misbehavior, and students believed their studies were meaningful. Finally, students were developing a greater understanding of social, economic and political systems. SO: better achievement on standard tests, good behavior, problem solving, team- work, and interweaving subjects to make learning real. End result: the 2003 budget blueprint calls this ineffective? And says let’s drop it? It deserves millions of more dollars and more praise.

The timing for this attack is actually very clear. Think tanks, especially those who represent polluting industries, corporations who seek pop contracts in schools and corporate sponsored “educational” materials as "good curriculum", see environmental education as bringing light to issues, much like the Roper Study showed, Americans know very little about. The Western Fuels Association downplays the possibilities of global warming, the Temperate Forest Foundation brags of our nation having more trees than 100 years ago and Monsanto will be feeding a growing world with GM foods? But, do we, the public understand the science, the tradeoffs and consequences of this fast moving technology? Hugh think tanks such as the Koch Family Foundation, Scaife Family Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the AMOCO and Weyerhaeuser Foundations are funding attacks on environmental education. Their war chests are deep, their PR is slick and the ability to have access to political powers is well known. (If anyone wants a chart of who is funding the attack on environmental education, I would be glad to provide it).

Case in point: a book called the “Skeptical Environmentalist” by Bjorn Lomberg, is getting rave reviews from the likes of the N.Y Times and the Washington Post. It down plays everything from extinction to unhealthy diets to global warming. Some of the worlds’ most premier scientists have decried that this book is a farce, poorly researched and written by those who continue to profit from the planet. Why isn’t this being discussed in classrooms as “overt advocacy” better yet, why isn’t it on 60 Minutes or the worlds news?

Forty years ago we called “advocacy” in schools, “civics”, now we prefer a numb, materialistic generation fluent in standardized tests that basically reveille in semantics and put critical thinking, problem solving, and citizen participation on the endangered species list. (Students might ask, what is that endangered species list, in a few years in this new world of non-science according to the Bush Administration.)

Protecting God’s creation is a form of advocacy that we must encourage from the likes of environmental education? Instead, environmental concerns are treated like inconsequential data, mostly exaggerated and according to President Bush: meaningless. Imagine the discussion we will have with our grandchildren’s grandchildren about this “Cro-Magnon administration” who mocks science to protect ecosystem integrity and worships at the alter of the almighty dollar, even when their economic deities like Enron have gone extinct.

EE takes tangible scientific principles, as diverse as physics, chemistry, biology, and math, and constructs a road map to this planet’s sustainability. But, it also gives insight to the massive abuse of natural resources and the industries that leave a legacy of pillage on national forest land. It exposes the current extinction rate and asks students to utilize their education as knowledgeable citizens. And that rattles the despoilers of nature to the bone.

Turn to the Office of Management and Budget Report (www.whitehouse.gov/om/budget/fy/2003 and click on the Environmental Protection Agency section. In terms of environmental protection, the Bush folks advocate “systems must become efficient and “low cost” as possible while at the same time maintaining environmental progress. This must sound reassuring to those who live by 40% of the nation’ water that is undrinkable and unswimmable. And must confound those who see pork barrel stimulus packages that loot Fort Knox for the friends of Bush as many of our environmental needs go neglected. Just the repair of the nation’s infrastructure could create billions of dollars of jobs and employ millions.

Page four contains the knock out punches. Under “program listings” Environmental Education’s assessment is recorded in big red letters: INEFFECTIVE.

Here is where the plot will thicken: Will industries that have joined as partners with certain environmental groups, scream in protest. Or worse yet, will negotiations restore a neutered form on environmental education, one signed and sealed by industry itself?

What will the big environmental groups do? Will they seize on this moment of true “homeland security”? Will they put Mr. Bush on the hotseat, and ask. Doesn’t your education program “leave no children behind?”

As Sam Smith, so eloquently states, “Bush is destroying our Constitution, bringing disgrace to our history, and endangering the entire planet.” We, a nation of proud liberty loving patriots, are allowing arrogant corporations, and greedy intellectuals to attack an area of knowledge, called ecology, and dismember it.

To cast away environmental education is more than a tragedy it is form of theft. Aldo Leopold’s son, Luna, says it best. “ Of all the causes that attract the attention of these young people, the plight of nature is one which may be truly a last call. Things wild and free are being destroyed by the impersonality of our attitude toward the land.

What better way to fight the destruction of nature than to place in the hands of the young this powerful plea for a land ethic?” Mr. Bush, teach the children well, parents scream loud and clear for restored EE funding and our cherished press, now is the time for those pens to write freely and defend education about our living earth. Write and call Congress, write letters to the editor, attend your next school board meeting and find out about environmental education in the classroom and exercise your right to have your children become ecological fluent decision makers! This might be a very helpful contact:


John F. Borowski has been teaching Marine Science, Environmental Biology and Earth Science for 22 years at North Salem High in Salem, Oregon.


John Borowski

You can contact John Borowski at jenjill@proaxis.com

Also by John Borowski:

 
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