Climate science is missing in the US educational system

Climate science is missing in the US educational system September 16, 2014


In what seems like an uphill battle to tackle climate change in the United States we often look towards future generations who should be much more scientifically literate and are much more liberal in their politics, meaning they will not simply tow the party line and deny climate change, but accept the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports it.

One troubling aspect of this though is the lack of education in climate change that is being taught from K-12 and even through college and university studies. If you are not taking courses directly related to climate change, your exposure to the science may be a paragraph in a textbook, or nothing at all.

Robert Luhn of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) attended the Ecological Society of America conference and started talking to attendees, mostly graduate students about their experience in climate science.

“I asked each visitor if he or she had taken (or taught) a formal class or unit in the last five years devoted to climate change. The answers were overwhelmingly ‘No’,” said Luhn on his blog at NCSE.

Yet when Luhn was lucky enough to find a student whose school did offer a course in climate change, the student told him, “My school offered climate science classes,” the student continued , “but I didn’t take them—they weren’t required”.

When asked to expand on these courses are not being offered at most schools, Minda Berbeco, the programs and policy director at NCSE said that educators themselves had not been formally educated in climate science and some were unsure just how to teach something they didn’t fully understand, and in the schools that do offer it only make it an elective, students wont take it unless they believe it will directly benefit their degree.

Yet Luhn was at an ecology conference where most most of the attendees were students heading into research projects that would be directly affected by climate change. “[…] Can you teach biology in this century without incorporating climate change? It’s like teaching astronomy without talking about stars!” writes Luhn.

The new National Science Standards have been adopted by 12 states and does include more science education for K-12 grade school students, but will require a lot of work to get teachers up to speed on the subject, and this does not address the lack of higher education opportunities being missed.

Perhaps if the science standards can grow through all fifty states students will enter college with a passion to save the environment, forcing colleges to offer more and more courses that include in-depth looks at climate science and will pave the way for climate courses to be a natural as English and math.

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