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Critical Fixes for Environmental Education

Posted by pbio on 07 May 2009 at 22:19 GMT

Author: Roger Applegate
Position: wildlife/conservation biologist
Institution: No affiliation was given
Submitted Date: July 08, 2007
Published Date: July 9, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

The authors have provided some very thought provoking discussion of the weaknesses of environmental education. I do not disagree with any of their points. However, in my experience and opinion there are several key ingredients that need to be addressed in order to fully validate their 7 ways to improve environmental education.

First of all, ecology and evolution must be taught thoroughly and throughout the educational process, K-12 and beyond. Ecology is key to understanding how humans impact and interact with the planet and evolution traces the path to the human niche. Teaching of evolution still continues to be controversial [1] and this controversy impedes our ability to address environmental issues.

Critical thinking is truly a serious weakness, but cannot be addressed without dealing with one of its primary causes; innumeracy [2]. Therefore, quantitative education must also be improved in order to achieve an effective environmental education program. In fact, one of the reasons environmental education programs are not evaluated could be because many practitioners do not understand how to collect and analyze data.

Since the first Earth Day over 30 years ago, education has yet to develop a program that would lead to a land ethic [3]. The concept of land ethic combines many elements of human knowledge into an understanding and appreciation for the wholeness of our planet. Its product would approach the unity of knowledge as called for by E. O. Wilson [4].

In short, while the authors have admirably addressed this important issue, the "devil is in the details." There is a little more to it than just the outlined 7 ways.

1. Liggett, G. A. (2006) Kansas Academy of Science position on teaching evolution in public schools. Trans. Ks. Acad. Sci. 109:97-100.

2. Paulos, J. A. (2001) Innumeracy. New York: Hill and Wang. 180 p.

3. Leopold, A. (1949) A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press. 226 p.

4. Wilson, E. O. (1999) Consilience. New York: Vintage Books. 367 p.

No competing interests declared.