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Why We Need Humane Education: Climate Science Education in the U.S. Is an Epic Fail

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | 4 Comments | Published on February 22, 2016 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2016/02/22/humane-education-climate-science-education-u-s-epic-fail/
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tree in flooded area

by Marsha Rakestraw

Climate change is already wreaking some pretty serious havoc worldwide. And climate scientists and other experts predict some additional Armageddon-like consequences if we humans don’t come together and make some major changes in our policies and ways of living.

Unfortunately, what’s happening in the world too often isn’t addressed in our schools.

Researchers from Penn State Survey Research Center (SRC) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently conducted a survey of 1500 middle and high school science teachers in all 50 states in the U.S. to find out how and how often climate science issues are being taught in science classes.

The one bit of good news is that climate change is getting at least some attention. Three quarters of surveyed teachers said they devote at least an hour to discussing climate change. But, most dedicate only 1-2 hours, which is “inconsistent with guidance from leading science and education bodies.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • 30% of teachers emphasize global warming is due to “natural causes.”
  • 12% of teachers do not address human causes at all.
  • 31% report “sending explicitly contradictory messages, emphasizing both the scientific consensus that recent global warming is due to human activity and that many scientists believe recent increases in temperature are due to natural causes.”
  • 4.4% of teachers reported experiencing overt pressure not to teach about climate change.

Researchers also noted, “The combination of limited training and uncertainty about the scientific consensus affects teachers’ acceptance of anthropogenic climate change. Although only 2% of teachers personally denied that recent global warming is happening, almost one-sixth (15%) believe that it is mostly driven by natural causes, and another one-sixth thought that human and natural causes are equally important.”

Read the complete report.

The survey results are disheartening for a reality that can and likely will affect every human and nonhuman being on earth.

When more than 95% of “active climate scientists attribute recent global warming to human causes” it’s an issue that should be explored and addressed (in age-appropriate ways) in every school everywhere.

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State said, “Our children will bear the brunt of the climate crisis, battling coastal inundation, the damage done by more extreme weather, increasingly withering droughts and devastating floods. We owe it to them not only to give them the facts, but to help them begin to clean up the mess that we created.”

Humane education not only teaches students (and adults) about climate change issues in age-appropriate ways, but also brings critical and creative thinking to these complex challenges and helps people identify and develop meaningful solutions for transforming systems, policies, and our daily choices.

Humane education takes into account the needs and interests of people, nonhuman animals, and the Earth and encourages solutions that benefit all.

What can you do? Here are just a couple possibilities:

  • Find out more about climate change issues with our global issues guide on Pinterest.
  • Find out how your child’s school addresses climate change issues. Encourage schools to integrate an interdisciplinary and solutionary approach to teaching about climate change and climate solutions.
  • Get training in humane education and help others become changemakers.

 

h/t Common Dreams