Climate Change in Our Schools

"Climate change" written on chalkboard next to thermometer

Educators are finding it difficult to teach climate change in schools.
Image: Shutterstock

The scientific community as a whole (well, 97%) agrees:  human-caused climate change is an undeniable part of our lives, and it will only be more so in the upcoming generation. But the way we’re teaching our children about it is not keeping up with the pace of what’s happening outside the playground.

Standards for science education in general vary widely from state to state, despite attempts made by the Department of Education and various other organizations to implement common curriculum, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. David Ayer, a writer for Earth Day Network, noted particular that states falling behind in climate education were frequently those states where coal and oil have always been prime industries–Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Kentucky, to name a few.

Some states have specifically rejected all of the NGSS simply because it includes the science behind global climate change, making it “controversial.” Educational standards for science are a state’s responsibility, so there is no way to nationally enforce what must be included.

The considerations behind the decision to dis-include these standards are largely political. A Wyoming representative, in arguing against them, literally told newspapers that including climate change in high school science courses would harm the state economically and politically. Wyoming, of course, is a major producer of coal.

Educators nationwide are concerned that politics are playing far too big a part in what they are allowed to teach. But what students learn about climate change is, inherently, political. What students learn will affect how they vote, what they invent, and where their priorities lie as they take over control of what happens to this world. They need to have the whole picture. After all, 97% of the world’s scientists are ready to give it to them…if they’re allowed.

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