In the United States, approximately 50 million students will attend primary or secondary school this year. Every morning, as I and millions of others struggle to get out of bed, asking ourselves whether it’s really necessary to wake up this early, it’s evident that we have no other choice.
Our only commonality is school. It’s the place where we learn fascinating subjects, meet new people and, most importantly, prepare ourselves with skills and habits we hope to use for the rest of our lives.
If school plays such a significant role in our childhood, shouldn’t our government, which mandates our education, be trying its best to teach us what we need to become better citizens?
If the answer is yes, what does it mean to be a “better citizen?” I’m sure there are many criteria, but for me and a growing number of people, being environmentally literate is one of them.
Future generations are the ones who will face severe climate-related problems, and if schools don’t teach it properly now, there will be a significant learning disparity in the future when such problems become more apparent.
In a world where environmental topics create so much controversy, wouldn’t an educated generation help ease the chaos while empowering those threatened by environment-related hazards? Yes, but it depends on how it’s done.
Many people think that environmental education is too extreme. Some schools teach children negative views about the environment. The notion that “we must act now” creates more panic than learning. This environmentalist bias concerns many parents, particularly those who work in fields that contribute global emissions. Others believe that environmental interactions are normal and should not be a concern.
It is now more important than ever to educate students about the environment. Our goal shouldn’t be to scare them, but rather to help them understand a need for improvement.
Students need to be able to understand their ecological footprint in order to do this. They will be able decide how they can make their environment more sustainable by teaching concepts such as recycling, reusing, composting, and decreasing single-use plastics.
It is important to allow students to have their own opinions when it comes to controversial topics. Let’s take fracking as an example. Instead of focusing on its negative aspects, talk about how nearly everyone relies on it to heat their homes, generate electricity, and power their vehicles. The discussion can then move to the reasons why fracking is not a long-term solution for sustainable energy production.
Imagine that we can one day provide students with multiple perspectives, facts, and justifications in order to understand environmental interactions. What merits will those who are against environmental education have in making these claims?
New Jersey became the first state in 2020 to require climate change education for students in K-12. As Pennsylvania and other states develop their courses of action, I hope they work thoroughly to create a curriculum that works — one that is built on fact, not opinion. Only then will we be able to produce a generation capable of facing the challenges that lie ahead.