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Community discussion: Does climate denial begin in school?

Does our failure to educate students on the issues of climate change create climate deniers?


Annemarie Dooling
July 18, 2014 10:03PM (UTC)

In one of many debates around the philosophies of education in the United States, a growing movement is calling for swift changes in the way climate change is taught in classroom. As reported on ThinkProgress, young students are presented with climate change as a debate, and receive more information around the politics of the situation than the actual science they are inheriting.

The problem may be that teachers are unsure of how to approach this subject, as suggested by ThinkProgress, and rely on the larger narrative seen in the media, the one that hinges on the debate between political groups rather than science. Or it could be that teachers are leaning to the whims of parents' groups or officials that may insist climate change, and its causes and symptoms, are not fact and have no place in classrooms, something we most recently saw happen around the concept of evolution.

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Climate Parents is a grassroots effort to change the way science classes are taught, and one of the groups championing change in this arena. Six of their most recent projects and campaigns revolved around course-correcting the educational stance on climate, including supporting the NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards, that would instill accurate knowledge in young students and better equip them to deal with the truths ahead.

Similarly, while the National Science Teacher's Association reported in 2011 that 60% of science educators who responded to a survey were not concerned with how climate change was being presented in lesson plans, they also indicated that students were overall skeptical of climate education. This same group pointed out that using the debate about climate issues as a starting point for discussion was an easy way for them to exemplify the way scientific subjects are researched and presented. One California teacher told the NSTA that "I teach that we are always evaluating and learning. Nothing is in stone… I teach both sides."

But with science classes leaving out the heart of the matter and the factual information behind the issue, are we setting up a generation of inhabitants who will be unprepared to deal with the realities of the destruction of the planet at large?

Thought it's worth mentioning that climate change is a polarizing debate, does that politicizing of the subject take away the seriousness and sincerity of the future of the Earth? Are we creating climate deniers before they even have a chance to make their own decisions?


Annemarie Dooling

Annemarie is here to talk about Netflix, travel and local politics, and answer polite questions from the community at adooling@salon.com.

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