From Order to Chaos: The Attack on the EPA

From Order to Chaos: The Attack on the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1970 under Richard Nixon’s administration.  Now in 2017, it is likely that at least 25% of the agency will be dismantled by the Authoritarian’s administration.

This is a crime against the well-being of all living things and their environment by the White House

Even before the current administration took over the White House, the Authoritarian’s transition team sent clear messages that the EPA was in trouble. The so-called transition team wanted names of EPA employees who worked on, wrote papers about, and did research in the fields related to climate science.

They were not doing this give out awards!  They did it put the EPA on notice that “we are out to get you.”

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Can EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism Inspire New Ways of Teaching Science?

EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism  (Library Copy) is the title of a new book edited by Michael P. Mueller, University of Alaska, and Deborah J. Tippins, University of Georgia.  It’s the first in the new Springer Book Series Environmental Discourses in Science Education in trying to bridge environmental education with science education.

ecojustice bookI received my copy of the book in the mail today, and was very happy for Mike and Deborah who have worked for several years to bring together the research and writing of science educators from various parts of the globe.  One of the aspects of their work that is represented here is their remarkable dedication to challenging traditions, especially an ideology of human domination over nature, and not the deep ecological perspectives that were signaled by Rachel Carson and Arne Naess.

In my view, their book, a cornucopia of fresh, abundant and grounded ideas based on case studies, research reports, and theoretical perspectives, offers a vital alternative to the Next Generation of Science Standards.  One of the themes that overflows in this book is a repositioning of teaching and learning into contextual situations, rather than a collection of sterile, barren, and garden variety behavioral goals or, as the NGSS puts it, “performance expectations.”

The ideas of ecoJustice, citizen science and youth activism are largely ignored in the NGSS, and as a result the ideas that are presented in this book will require activism centered on the belief that youth of all ages and all cultures are quite capable of engaging in real issues in their neighborhoods, as well as expanding their horizons to take part in challenging opportunities to collaborate with others, and seek solutions to problems that face humankind.

We need to question the purposes of teaching science, history, mathematics, and language arts beyond the content specific goals of the Common Core State Standards, as well as the science standards that I mentioned before.  Ed Johnson has said in letters and reports, if fundamental questions about the purposes of schooling are not addressed, and if we can not agree on these purposes, very little will change the system.

The so-called education reformers (corporatism neoliberal) cut learning to performances that can be easily measured on standardized tests, which now are becoming more complex, and numbing, especially after the U.S. Department of Education provided more than $300 million in funding to groups who’ve developed standardized tests that measure academic learning in math and language arts, and science in near future.

  • What do these tests tell us about student growth in areas that will have more meaning to their lives than a score on a test?  Zero.
  • What do these tests really tell us about what students know in math, language arts, and science? Not very much.
  • How does the student’s love of music, art or the humanities play a role in fostering their interest in math, language arts, and science?  It isn’t very much, and indeed these areas of student life are not really considered important to policy makers.  And that’s too bad.

In contrast to the research reported in EcoJustice, Citizen Science and Youth Activism, the current approach to education created by the CCSS is a “neoliberal ecosystem,” mapped by Morna McDermott, Professor at Towson University, and co-founder of United Opt Out National.  McDermott visualizes a web of connections among  corporations and organization and the Common Core.  The map exposes the influence peddling that shadows and casts a pall over public education.

On the other hand, the work that Mueller and Tippins have put together their book shows how education for youth can be quite different from a more traditional perspective.  In the closing chapter of the book,  Angela Calabrese Barton explains why the current purpose of teaching science which is based on a scientific literacy that focuses on knowledge and skill development is simply not enough.  She writes:

Indeed, as I noted in my introduction, many hold the view that if simply teach students “enough” science (whether it be content or practice) then they will have what it takes to engage in civic society.  However, this functional view of science literacy attends to participation in the world as it is now, without attention to what could be.  It ignores the integrated knowledge and practice that may support young people in working with and in science to bring about a more just world for individuals or communities while also, themselves, being transformed by broader and more diverse participation.

Why are ideas such as ecoJustice, citizen science, and youth activism important when we consider the curriculum of the school, and lives of our students?

In the last chapter of the book, Angela Calabrese Barton titles her chapter: Taking Action with and in Science, and in particular suggests that we need to take seriously the work of students who take civic action with and in science.

In the view of the authors’ of this book, the curriculum should be reconsidered in light of the themes of ecojustice, citizen science, and youth activism.

Very little of the curriculum enables or indeed allows students to take action of civil, cultural, social, or environmental issues.  Most of school is learning stuff that will be on the standardized tests which are used in every state to rate and rank students.  And the data from these tests is now being used to rank, rate and judge teachers, putting at risk their careers based on the unremarkable algorithm (Value Added Model).

Are the Ferguson demonstrations that taking place around the country important in the lives of students in school?  Of course they are.  But are students’ concerns or ideas explored or discussed?  What role does school play in exploring the injustices that are being protested?

When a very powerful organization like the National Football League (NFL), and its partner teams decide to build a new stadium, do they really take in consideration where they build their bigger and more monstrous stadiums, who it affects, or what small businesses are affected.  In the end, who benefits from the construction of these humongous edifices?  Are their ecological and human injustices when a team such as the Atlanta Falcons uses its reserves of green to convince historical churches to move so that they play football?  If students were engaged to consider the ramifications of such an ecological project, what would they learn?  How would they convey their findings to the community?  And would their conclusions be of value to the community?

 Higher Ground

There are 27 chapters in the EcoJustice, Citizen Science, and Youth Activism book, and each is based on projects and activities that take place in real schools around the world.  These are not wild-eyed ideas that have been dreamed up by élite groups of folks.  Instead they have designed serious projects and programs that focus on a triumvirate of trends:

  • Ecojustice–evaluating the holistic connections between cultural and natural systems, environmentalism, sustainability and Earth-friendly marketing trends.
  • Citizen Science–a pedagogy of ways to enact ecojustice, especially engaging students in monitoring locally to uncover issues and problems in their own communities.
  • Youth Activism–another approach in which youth can come together to offer a platform for the community to consider.

Although some of the authors might not agree with my assessment of the Common Core or the Next Generation Science Standards, we do agree that we need to move to “higher ground,” an idea narrated by Mike Dias and Brenden Callahan.  They ask why is it so rare that students during the school day are involved in citizen science and youth activism projects.

Disclaimer: I am author of the chapter entitled Citizen Diplomacy to Youth Activism: The Story of the Global Thinking Project.

 

 

Climate Change: Are We In Trouble?

This is a reblog from the Moyers & Company website. It’s an article written by John Light that I’ve reblogged here as a follow up the May 7th post entitled Extreme Earth: Coming to an Environment Near You.

The National Climate Assessment Says We’re in Trouble. This Chart Shows Why. (via Moyers & Company)

This animated chart from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences shows the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Note the spike? Measuring CO2 in parts per million (ppm), the chart shows, first, how the amount of the gas…

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Inspiration in the Rockies

 

The Rocky Mountains as seen from the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, August 19, 2012

This is a view from the YMCA of the Rockies, which I first visited in August, 1975 to attend my first conference of the Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP). Since then I’ve been here about 15 times.

But it was my attendance at the (AHP) conference that changed my outlook as a teacher at Georgia State University.

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NAT GEO The Wild Mississippi

NAT GEO presents The Wild Mississippi, a three-part TV program on Sunday, February 12.  I viewed the three episodes today, and recommend that you tune in Sunday night at 8:00 P.M (Eastern) to view the first of the three episodes.  The second and third episodes follow at 9:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M.  Check the schedule and details here.

Join the Wild Mississippi Blog Carnival here.

If you are teaching life science, high school biology, earth science, or an ecology or environmental science course, you will find these programs great resources for your students.  I viewed the shows on my 27″ Mac, and the imagery is gorgeous as we travel the river, and witness the wildlife, and power of the Mississippi from its beginning in Minnesota and to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Episode 1: Wild Mississippi: Deep Freeze
  • Episode 2: Wild Mississippi: Raging Waters
  • Episode 3: Delta Blues
Gibson, LA: Wide shot of the bayou from the bow of the boat. (Photo Credit: © NGC / Whitney Beer-Kerr)Thibodeaux, LA: Cameraman Jeff Wayman leaning over the front of the boat. (Photo Credit: © NGC / Whitney Beer-Kerr)
Thibodeaux, LA: Cameraman Jeff Wayman leaning over the front of the boat. (Photo Credit: © NGC / Whitney Beer-Kerr)

Here are links to two videos that will show you the impressive quality of the shows. According to NAT GEO, they explored the length of the Mississippi for an entire year, traveling the full length of the river (2350 miles).

The Mississippi is an amazing river, and every time we cross this river, we are awed at its majesty as it traverses the the continent.

Video 1: Fishing with alligator snappers
Video 2: Bobcat prey