On Our Must Read List: The Failure of Environmental Education (and How We Can Fix It)

"...environmentalism is a responsibility of being alive, of our need to drink water and eat food. It’s an individual and collective responsibility, whether we acknowledge it or like it or not." ~ Charles Saylan

We haven't read it yet, so we can't recommend it, but The Failure of Environmental Education by Charles Saylan and Daniel T. Blumstein is definitely on our must-read list. Environmental education is a commonplace concept in many schools systems today, but how it is manifested and framed is highly variable and often politicized.

According to a recent interview with Charles Saylan on Yale Environment 360, "...at its core, the authors contend, environmental responsibility is a broadly held, nonpartisan value, much like respect for the law. As such, they believe, it deserves a central place in public education, with lessons on the environment permeating every student’s day. Environmentally active citizens, they say, should grasp everything from an understanding of tipping points to the 'capacity to see intangible value in things: forests simply for the sake of the forest; the expanse of wilderness simply because it is alive, primal, and fiercely beautiful.'”

You can read the complete interview with Saylan here, as well as an interview with both authors on Take Part here.

The authors' view of environmental education as core to students' learning and an important tool in educating and empowering them to become leaders in changing systems parallels our own views about the vitalness and power of humane education (which includes environmental preservation, as well as human rights and animal protection). They also emphasize that increasing awareness doesn't necessarily translate into positive action. Some other take aways from the book:
  • Environmental education (as with all learning) needs to be relevant to students' lives.
  • Engaging students' passion and sense of wonder is important.
  • Environmentalism is often seen as "simply an encroachment on the free market"
  • Framing is important: "responsible citizenship" vs. "environmentalism"
Let us know your thoughts about this book, if you've read it, and your own experiences with environmental (and humane) education.

~ Marsha

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