Charles Ames Fischer

Teacher • Author • Consultant • Mentor

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The Problem With Environmental Education

Posted by Charles Fischer on September 23, 2010 at 9:47 AM
Here's an article about the Maryland Board of Education adding environmental education to the graduation requirements. Here's an excerpt: Some board members said they would put a high priority on making sure students have environmental knowledge when they graduate. "I don't know how many things are as important as people understanding the environment," said board member Ivan C.A. Walks."

It's possibly a good idea BUT there's a serious concern I have about the whole environmental education. Here it is in a nutshell. Environmental education seeks to teach students about understanding and taking care of the planet. Recycling, global warming, food distribution and so on. But today's kids spend much of their time indoors. Many of them find bugs and insects gross, are scared to get EEE or some other disease from mosquitos and won't venture into the woods because of ticks, spiders or snakes. Modern parents hardly let children out of their sight and worry so much that kids hardly play with frogs or climb trees anymore. 

What's happening is that people are becoming disconnected from nature. Our culture is creating kids who are ecophobic. I asked a group of students to sit in the grass at school recently and two of them looked at me like I was crazy. "Grass?" one of them said, "that's gross. I'm not sitting down." 

Students who are ecophobic are not going to be very interested in saving the environment because the environment is full of gross things like bugs and grass. Why would students be interested in saving polar bears or seals if they are almost completely disconnected from the animal kingdom, with the possible exception of dogs and cats. In other words, asking ecophobic students to "save the planet" is like asking someone who is arachnophobic to go around saving spiders. 

Environmental education without a naturalist complement will fail miserably. Students who are disconnected from nature are simply unable to care about it.

Categories: Articles, Naturalist

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