Research is revealing that the United States lackluster embrace of Climate Change research may begin in the classroom. Teachers, under increasing pressure from conservative communities, are less likely to take a hard line on climate change and teach it adequately in the classroom. Similar to the conflict with teaching Evolution, Climate Change education is suffering as teachers strive to avoid controversial topics in the classroom in an attempt to avoid alienating conservative communities in which they teach.
Research by Pew Research Center says the failure to teach climate change science in classrooms is contributing to the 35% of American adults who believe that Global Warming is a myth, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
71% of Americans think we should do “whatever it takes to protect the environment” but only 56% believe we should enact stricter environmental laws and regulations. So the question remains, if we should “do whatever it takes” but the majority of Americans don’t want any new regulations, what solutions are available?
In a study featured in the journal Science, researchers looked into the results of a survey that involved 1,500 public school educators across the country. About 70 percent of science teachers in middle school and 87 percent of biology teachers in high school devote time to climate change discussions.
However, the quality of those lectures significantly vary from teacher to teacher. Roughly one-third of science teachers who talk about climate change say the phenomenon is likely the result of “natural causes.” In reality, 95 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change and global warming are driven by human activity.
Eric Plutzer, political science professor at Pennsylvania State University, said teachers are aware that climate change is a vital topic, but their findings show that the discussions have yet to be improved.
Even those who believe climate change science may tend to teach potential natural causes as the source of the phenomenon in order to avoid upsetting conservative members of communities. A 2014 Pew Research Center report revealed the vast majority of American conservatives believe change in our climate isn’t really happening.
“They often have to negotiate between the demands of scientific findings and the opinions and beliefs of students, their parents and other community members,” he said.
Additionally, a lack of formal education on climate change among science teachers also contributes to confusion, the study said. Most of the teachers involved in the survey never took a class on climate change when they were in college. Textbooks are also out-of-date regarding global climate research findings.
In Georgia and across the country we have to do a better job helping to empower the next generation with correct and current information about our changing climate so that the decisions and policies that they enact as adults can lead to a brighter, better, and hopefully cooler future for the world.