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Why Won't Some Schools Teach Students About Climate Change?

Young people across the globe are concerned about climate change. A Lancet study surveying 10,000 young people ages 16 to 25 in 10 countries found that more than half felt sadness, anxiety, anger, and guilt about climate change. They are seeing the impacts of a warming planet in the news and in their own communities, but many feel helpless and powerless. The young want solutions—they want to know what they can do about climate change. In fact, a 2020 study found that if 16 percent of secondary school (equivalent to middle and high school) students around the world in middle and high income countries studied climate change, it would result in cutting almost 19 gigatons of CO2 by 2050. This is because educated youth would develop personal connections to climate change solutions, and change their behaviors accordingly throughout their lives. Climate education was shown to potentially be a more effective way to reduce emissions than many other single solutions and that is bad for many corporate bottom lines!

Young people recognize that climate change is going to shape their futures—where they live, the work they will do, and their quality of life. They need climate education in order to develop green skills, adapt to the harsh reality of a warming world, and understand how to combat climate change. But they need to learn the basics of climate change before they can do anything about it.

In the U.S., more than 86 percent of teachers and 84 percent of parents support climate change education in schools. Progress is being made in some states, but on the whole students are not learning enough about climate science quickly enough to give them the knowledge and tools they will need to cope with the impacts of climate change.

The education system is failing the students when it comes to climate change or climate education in the formal curriculum. We really need to pick up speed because otherwise we will have a whole generation of students who will graduate with this climate anxiety and will not know what to do because they have not been prepared by our education systems.Massachusetts, a science and biotech center, ranked very low in a study of climate change curriculum policy. The state’s science framework does mention climate change, but not what districts must teach, and climate change is not included in the state’s elementary learning standards. Students may learn about weather, but not necessarily how it relates to climate change. There are outside efforts to expand climate education, however, such as black Coral Inc , a nonprofit based in Boston, MA, that provides climate change and sustainability programs to elementary and middle schools in the USA and Internationally.

Meanwhile...A Connecticut lawmaker wants to strike climate change from state science standards. A Virginia legislator worries teachers are indoctrinating students with their personal views on global warming. And an Oklahoma state senator wants teachers to be able to introduce alternative viewpoints without fear of losing their jobs. As climate change becomes a hotter topic in American classrooms, politicians around the country are pushing back against the near-universal scientific consensus that global warming is real, dire and partly manmade.

Of the more than a dozen such measures proposed so far this year, some already have failed. But they have emerged this year in growing numbers, many of them inspired or directly encouraged by a pair of advocacy groups, the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute. The battle over global warming resembles the fight that began decades ago over teaching of evolution, in which opponents led by conservative Christians have long called for schools to present what they call both sides of the issue.

Some of those who reject mainstream climate science have cast the debate as a matter of academic freedom.

James Taylor, a senior fellow at Heartland, an Illinois-based group that dismisses climate change, said it is encouraging well-rounded classroom discussions on the topic. The group, which in 2017 sent thousands of science teachers copies of a book titled "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming," is now taking its message directly to students. A reference book it is planning for publication this year will rebut arguments linking climate change to hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather.

"We're very concerned the global warming propaganda efforts have encouraged students to not engage in research and critical thinking," Taylor said, referring to news reports and scientific warnings. Neither Discovery nor Heartland discloses the identities of its donors. Billionaire oilman David Koch used to joke that Koch Industries was “the biggest company you've never heard of.” Now the shroud of secrecy has thankfully been lifted, revealing the $127 million that he and his brother Charles have quietly funneled to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and Climate Education in schools.


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