Educate All Students, Support Public Education

April 19, 2012

Teaching About the Environment: Where is the Urgency in Education About the Climate Crisis?

Filed under: Curriculum and Instruction,Environment — millerlf @ 2:37 pm

Changing the Climate in School

Posted: 04/17/2012  Bill Bigelow and Bill McKibben

Maybe you’ve heard. We are facing a climate crisis that threatens life on our planet. Climate scientists are unequivocal: We are changing the world in deep, measurable, dangerous ways — and the pace of this change will accelerate dramatically in the decades to come.

Then again, if you’ve been a middle school or high school student recently, you may not know this.

That’s because the gap between our climate emergency and the attention paid to climate change in the school curriculum is immense. Individual teachers around the country are doing outstanding work, but the educational establishment is not. Look at our textbooks. The widely used Pearson/Prentice Hall text, Physical Science: Concepts in Action, waits until page 782 to tell high school students about climate change, but then only in four oh-by-the-way paragraphs. A photo of a bustling city includes the caption: “Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other sources may contribute to global warming.” Or they may not, the book seems to suggest.

IAT’s Coordinated Science: Physical, Earth and Space Science devotes several pages late in the book to climate change, and concludes with this doubt-soaked passage:

Some people take the position that the increase in carbon dioxide should be reversed. They believe this is necessary even though the size of the contribution to global warming is not certain. It is their belief that the consequences would be very difficult to handle. Other people take a different position. They consider that it would be unwise to disrupt the world’s present economy. They consider the future danger to be questionable. The big problem is that no one is certain that rapid global warming will take place. If it does, it may be too late to do anything about it!

The danger of climate change as “questionable”? ExxonMobil itself could not have produced a more skeptical approach.

These textbooks are not mere egregious outliers; they are typical of commercially produced science and social studies teaching materials. In fact, a partnership between the American Coal Foundation and Scholastic to create a propagandistic 4th grade curriculum was ended only last year, when educators and environmentalists exposed the lessons’ absurd pro-industry biases. Scholastic’s curriculum, The United States of Energy, was distributed free to tens of thousands of elementary teachers. It showed gleaming piles of coal, along with many of its alleged benefits. Students didn’t learn of a single problem, including coal’s huge contribution to climate change.

But as state legislatures get into the business of writing school curricula, things may go from awful to worse. Take Tennessee. It just became the fourth state — following Louisiana, Texas, and South Dakota — to pass a law that requires global warming to be taught as one of a number of “scientific controversies.”

The fact that Tennessee is home of the infamous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial makes the new law ironic, but not funny. As the American Association for the Advancement of Science explains, “Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.”


December 12, 2011

Multicultural Curriculum Needed for Students to Connect

Filed under: Curriculum and Instruction,Educational Practices — millerlf @ 9:49 pm


Larry Miller Published in

Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads section ran a thoughtful article ( about schools’ failures in educating African-American youth. The author, Tamiko Jordan-Obregon of the Milwaukee Center for Leadership Development, addresses the fact that many African-American youth do not connect with curriculum in our schools.

Jordan-Obregon quotes Carter G Woodson about the need for schools to be relevant. She correctly describes how many schools focus on what I call “white presidents’” history and leave African-American history to only passing mention.

Jordan-Obregon suggests that instead of doing a “deep dive” into Shakespeare’s works, African-American children should study the history and culture of African people.

While I fully agree with these concerns, I also know you cannot simply replace the study of, for example, Shakespeare. The canon that students must know to get into and to be successful in college is too often a Eurocentric constructed curriculum. African-American students must know this canon in order to compete.

What we need is a truly multicultural approach. Teachers must learn and invest in the cultures of other people’s children. They must learn the history and culture of the students they teach and connect whatever they’re teaching to the students’ lives. For example, in teaching literature, comparisons can be made between August Wilson’s work and Shakespeare’s. But to do this, teachers must be grounded in works by Wilson or James Baldwin, Alice Childress, Langston Hughes and a host of other African-American authors. As with all curriculum, this work must be engaging, lively and critical.

It is the responsibility of educators to give students a foundation in their community’s cultural and historical development. We can do this while also critiquing the dominant culture and those power relationships. History curriculum should be based in a people’s history that explains the complexity of how we got to where we are today.

The wealth of materials available now offer an great opportunity for teachers to connect what students are studying to their own lives, including the use of popular culture. I learned a lot from Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop, where he offers a dissection of hip-hop lyrics while comparing them to other forms of poetry. Or take the anthropological study The Birth of African-American Culture by Sidney W. Mintz and Richard Price, which gives a framework for the historical development of African-American culture in the US. These connections can and should be made throughout students K-12 education.

While K-12 schools should absolutely provide courses of African American history and culture (along with other people’s history and culture), they should also bring this curriculum into the established core curriculum. To do this, teachers must be trained in the history and culture of the students they teach. This, by the way, should be the approach in all schools, even where fewer or no people of color reside. At this time, what is taught, and whose history, culture and literature dominates K-12 instruction is far from being multicultural, equal or fair.

October 25, 2010

The (Howard) Zinn Education Project Teaching Guide: The Most Dangerous Man in America- Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Filed under: Curriculum and Instruction,Journalism — millerlf @ 2:59 pm

The Zinn Education Project (is pleased to release a 94-page teaching guide on the film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. (The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.) The teaching guide offers eight lessons on the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblowing, the Pentagon Papers and more — for U.S. history, government, and language arts classrooms. The Most Dangerous Man in America Teaching Guide offers a “people’s history” approach to learning about the U.S. war in Vietnam and engages students in thinking deeply about their own responsibility as truth-tellers and peacemakers. The guide uses a variety of teaching strategies, including role play, critical reading, discussion, mock trial, small group imaginative writing, and personal narrative. Developed by the Zinn Education Project in collaboration with The Most Dangerous Man in America filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, the teaching guide is available for free download at the Zinn Education Project website. View The Most Dangerous Man in America for free online at POV through October 27:

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