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Who’s Learning What — or Not — and Why?

Who’s Learning What — or Not — and Why?

Who's Learning What — or Not — and Why?

The voices of young activists calling to a stronger response were prominently featured at COP26, United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, in November.

Not all young people share Greta ThunbergOr Vanessa Nakate’s level of urgency, especially in the U.S., even if they’ve been directly impacted by climate change.

Katie Worth, an ex-investigative journalist at FRONTLINE and the author of Katie Worth’s new book, was so inspired. Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America, debuts Nov. 16, 20,21, from Columbia Global ReportsFRONTLINE Support and Assistance The GroundTruth Project

“[F]A quarter of American children are under 25 surveyed in 2020 rejected the idea that global warming was some kind of emergency, more than in any other country surveyed in Western Europe or North America,” Worth wrote in The Washington Post on Nov. 10.

Based on years of reporting, Worth found many U.S. children don’t believe in human-caused global warming, in part because of how climate change is being taught in American classrooms.

In Miseducation, Worth investigates who has tried to shape what children learn and how successful those influences have been — exploring the roles of oil corporations, state legislatures, school boards, think tanks, lobbyists and textbook publishers, Detailing a playbook that was developed in previous battles against evolution and tobacco. 

The book is a culmination of a series of dire warnings about the imminent and current consequences of climate change. 2021 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found, “[h]uman influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years.” FRONTLINE has been following the climate crisis for years, and Worth’s reporting on its impacts on kids, in the stories below, provides an introduction to our broader coverage.


1. Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America, by Katie Worth (2021)

Background photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

In writing MiseducationFRONTLINE is supporting the first book project., Worth reviewed scores of textbooks, built a 50-state database and traveled to more than a dozen communities to talk to kids about what they’ve learned about the climate crisis. 

“It’s safe to say that across the country, intrepid teachers rigorously educate their students about climate science,” Worth writes in the book. “It’s also safe to say that commonly, a teacher down the hall is miseducating them about it.” 

Miseducation examines political divides in what children are taught; investigates the forces that have worked to create uncertainty, confusion and distrust around climate science; and explores what’s at stake for the future.


2. The Last Generation, produced by Michelle Mizner and Katie Worth (2018)

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This award-winning interactive explores what it’s like to grow up in an island nation threatened by rising seas, through the perspectives of three children.

Julia, Izerman, Wilmer consider climate change a serious threat to the way they live. The Marshall Islands is a low-lying country that could become uninhabitable in their lifetimes because of rising sea levels. “If the ice melts too much, water will bury the island. So, that’s when people have to move away,” 9-year-old Izerman explains in the interactive documentary.

FRONTLINE is a boundary-pushing organization. GroundTruth Project has won an Emmy Award, an Online Journalism Award, World Press Photo’s inaugural Interactive of The Year Award, a Scripps Howard Award and a Webby Award. Teachers can explore a companion lesson planPBS LearningMedia.


3. Climate Change in the Classroom, by Katie Worth (2017-18)

See Also
Seoul Office of Education Pledges To Teach Food Ecology In Response To Worsening Climate Crisis

2017 Worth broke the story for FRONTLINE and The GroundTruth Project that the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, was seeking to influence some 200,000 K-12 public school teachers. 

Worth discovered that the institute was sending educators DVDs, textbooks, and other materials rejecting human involvement in climate change. Instead, Worth argued that rising temperatures are caused primarily natural phenomena. 

In a seriesThis is storiesWorth covered what children learn about climate change. Heartland’s effortThe responses and reactions it spurred, a wave of legislative actionsThese activities are aimed at science education in the classroom. trauma among children directly impacted by the climate crisis — reporting that would become the jumping-off point for her book.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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