Environmental Education

Issues in Brief

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Across the country, children are learning that the earth is getting dangerously hot, that acid rain has destroyed vast numbers of lakes and rivers, and that organic food is safer than food grown with pesticides. Some children are frightened about their future; others pester their parents with simplistic solutions to complex problems.

"Many environmental materials in the schools usually tell just one side of the story," says PERC Senior Associate Jane Shaw. "Rather than introduce children to the spirit of scientific inquiry, they try to turn them into automatons�??and scare them as well." Heavily influenced by activist environmental groups, schools emphasize worst-case situations and express hostility to normal activities such as logging and farming," says Shaw.

PERC is actively working to correct these problems:

A new book, A Blueprint for Environmental Education, just published by PERC, offers a road map for introducing economics to environmental education. It shows how this controversial field can adopt more realism and foster critical thinking in students. Edited by Jane S. Shaw, the book brings together lively essays by educators and economists who point out current problems with environmental education, introduce economics as a solution, and illustrate the relevance of economics.
Regnery Publishing, Inc. has published Facts Not Fear: A Parents' Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment, by Michael Sanera and Jane S. Shaw. This book helps parents provide a more balanced view of many environmental issues. The book is jointly sponsored by the Alabama Family Alliance, the Arizona Institute for Public Policy, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and PERC.
The National Council on Economic Education has published a middle school and high school curriculum developed by PERC. EcoDetectives, by Mark Schug, John Morton, and Donald Wentworth, is suited for social studies, history, and current events classes. This self-contained package of 18 lessons applies basic economic concepts to the study of environmental issues.
PERC is preparing Environmental Examiner, a newsletter for high school students, that offers an ongoing way of communicating balanced environmental information. It includes articles and activities dealing with current environmental topics.
PERC is working with the Canadian Council on Economic Education to develop materials that will treat environmental issues more objectively.
PERC is sponsoring teacher workshops around the country.
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Brian Child spent twelve years working for Zimbabwe's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and is now helping the Zambia Wildlife Authority restore its national parks. He can be reached at bchild@zamnet.zm.
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Before joining PERC, Jane Shaw was a journalist who had developed an uneasy feeling that much of the commentary about environmental policy that she read--and even some that she wrote--was tilted in the wrong direction. The usual solution to an environmental problem was to turn it over to the government. She had become uncomfortable with this...
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