Teaching young people to think about the environment is as important
as teaching them to read and write. Some lessons are as basic as explaining
that recycling reduces the need for raw materials. Asking a kindergartner
to extract chocolate chips from a cookie and then to put the crumbled cookie
back together with glue makes a comprehensible point about mining's consequences.
Lois Marie Gibbs, Love Canal crusader
and executive director, Center for Health,
Environment, and Justice
Ironically, the polluting corporations contending that environmental
education turns kids into "green-eyed monsters" are dumping misinformation
into our classrooms. For example, a video Exxon distributes rewrites the
history of the worst oil spill ever as a great test for their cleanup equipment.
But the reality of environmental education is learning about river water
and plants under a microscope, and 96 percent of U.S. parents support it.
Marianne Manilov, executive director, Center for Commercial-Free Public
Successful environmental education will encourage direct experience of
nature while de-emphasizing virtual learning. Schools should refuse gifts
from Apple or Whittle or Channel One, which package data and name names-corporations
and processes. The enemies of nature are the false ideologies of economic
growth, "progress," materialism, alienation. Teach that! Teach
direct connection. Teach how to grow food. Teach how to subvert modernity.
Jerry Mander, author of In the Absence of the Sacredand co-editor of
The Case Against the Global Economy
What's wrong with environmental education?
What little there is is under attack.
Barbara Pyle, Turner Broadcasting System, vice president, environmental
policy, and co-creator of Captain Planet
Education, for the most part, occurs in buildings with lots of squareness
and straight lines. They tell no story, offer no clue about how they are
maintained and at what ecological cost. They do, however, reflect a hidden
curriculum suggesting that locality is unimportant, and that energy can
be squandered. Students begin to suspect that the unraveling of the fabric
of life on Earth is unreal, unsolvable, or occurring somewhere else. Accordingly,
they learn either hypocrisy or hopelessness. It is possible, however, to
design buildings that promote mindfulness. And by doing so we might help
to equip our students with the analytical skills and ecological competence
necessary to turn wishful thinking into genuine hopefulness.
David W. Orr, professor and chair of environmental studies, Oberlin College,
and author of Ecological Literacy
Sometimes propaganda can be presented as curriculum. Some materials claim
that a free-market economy is the answer to all environmental problems,
others focus on myth. Neither is fair to kids in the classroom.
Jim Lester, director, Environmental Institute of Houston
Some voices are heard more strongly than others. We need to take an approach
where content is influenced by and taught from multiple cultural perspectives.
Carl Anthony, executive director, Urban Habitat Program
For environmental education to matter, four points should be stressed:
(1) environmental contamination is not only about the "Big Events"
like the Exxon Valdez spill, but about the pervasive daily poisonings of
our water, air, food, and selves; (2) this contamination is not accidental,
but the inevitable result of profit-motivated shortcuts taken by executives
who should be named, working in companies that should be named; (3) the
polluters can be stopped but Washington won't do it for us (they're helping
polluters do it to us); and (4) organize-grassroots organization moves people
from being agitated to agitating, and that is what produces progress in
Jim Hightower, radio commentator and author of There's Nothing in the Middle
of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos