Author

Dayanna Sanchez

Dayanna Sanchez
"Knowledgeable Minds Could Save Our Plant"
College Writing 1, Dr. Richard Foss

What inspired me to write this paper was when I realized that my generation, including myself, knows very little about climate change. This topic should become a mandatory topic taught in schools because this is not a minor issue. Climate change is an issue that can lead to the 6th mass extinction if society doesn't take any action.

Excerpt from "Knowledgeable Minds Could Save Our Plant"

“The US should mandate climate change education from K-12th grade because Americans, specifically adults, and teens, don't have sufficient knowledge regarding climate change. Statistics show that many adults and teens fall into the category of not knowing much about climate change. In research conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 517 American teens and 1,513 American adults took a complex questionnaire of 75 questions on climate change to evaluate their knowledge, where they received a grade on an A-F scale. The results for teens were 54 percent received an F, 22 percent received a D, 19 percent received a C, 5 percent received a B, and 1 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 5). The results for adults were 46 percent received an F, 25 percent received a D, 18 percent received a C, 10 percent received a B, and 2 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 5). Based on the results, a failing grade (F) on this assessment was much higher than a passing grade (A), which signifies that adults and teens in America do not have sufficient knowledge about climate change…. These outcomes are due to the lack of enforcement on climate change education from various schools from all over the United States. By mandating climate change education from K-12th grade, students will not only gain knowledge, but they will begin to force change to save society from becoming extinct and Mother Nature from facing the effects of climate change.”

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Knowledgeable Minds Could Save Our Planet
by Dayanna Sanchez

Climate change is only getting worse every second of the day since older generations are not taking the precautions necessary to save life on the planet from becoming extinct. The United States is part of the many countries that are facing extreme effects of Climate Change. Based on Jerry M. Melillo (Chair) and Terese (T.C.) Richmond (Vice-Chair) of Federal National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), “Certain types of extreme weather events with links to climate change have become more frequent and/or intense, including prolonged periods of heat, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts” (Melillo and Richmond 7). These effects are only a portion of what the United States is facing due to climate change. However, not enough action is being taken to fix this issue due to the lack of knowledge from older generations and higher authorities. If lack of knowledge is one of the causes of why climate change is rising, should the United States mandate climate change education for younger generations from K-12th grade? As of 2019, Italy became the first country to demand climate change education into their national curriculum at the start of September 2020. They enforced this law because they have recognized that once younger generations comprehend what climate change is, they will begin to speak up and force change to save society from becoming extinct. Also, they have acknowledged that younger generations understand that they are the ones who will be living the worst effects of climate change, and for that reason, they deserve to be educated on this topic. Nevertheless, those against climate change education mention how teachers are not professionally prepared to teach climate change, but if the United Stated enforces such action, teachers will be trained. The United States should require climate change education from primary through secondary education because Americans do not have sufficient knowledge and the majority support adding climate change education into the school’s curriculum.

The United States education system allows school districts and teachers from all states to decide if they want to teach climate change. Therefore, students only learn information regarding climate change if the schools' educators decide too. At the start of 2013, 20 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the district of Columbia implemented the Next Generation Science Standards. According to Anya Kamenetz, an education correspondent, “The standards instruct teachers to cover the facts of human-caused climate change beginning in middle school” (Kamenetz). In other words, the states that have included this state school policy have their educators teach how climate change is human-caused at the start of junior high education. Based on research conducted for NPR Ed by Glenn Branch, a deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, he discovered that “36 states in total currently recognize human-caused climate change somewhere in their state standards” (Kamenetz). However, Branch states, “‘the fact that human-caused climate change is included in a state's science standards doesn't mean that teachers in that state do teach it,’ and vice versa” (Kamenetz). What Branch is stating is that just because the states seem to recognize this issue, it does not signify teachers in these particular states are teaching it due to the lack of enforcement. Consequently, every student in every state in the United States is not learning nearly enough about climate change.

Besides some states implementing the school policy mentioned above, only 1 out of 50 states in the United States has shown full support for climate change education. New Jersey has become the first state in the United States to demand all public schools to add climate change into the school’s curriculums from primary to secondary education. First Lady Tammy Murphy announced on June 3rd of 2020 that “the New Jersey State Board of Education has adopted her initiative to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to incorporate climate change education across its K-12 learning standards” (State of New Jersey). At the start of September 2021, this demand will be enforced. Climate Change will be taught in courses like “21st Century Life and Careers, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages” as well as Math and English, “which are up for review in 2022” (State of New Jersey). First Lady Murphy stated, “‘This generation of students will feel the effects of climate change more than any other, and it is critical that every student is provided an opportunity to study and understand the climate crisis through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary lens’” (State of New Jersey). As stated in the quote above, these younger generations will be the ones to suffer from the outcomes of climate change. As a result, more people need to recognize that future generations have the right to be climate change educated, for they can discover better solutions to save humanity from the worst effects of climate change than older generations did.

However, while New Jersey has been the only one to pass a state bill on enforcing climate change education, there’s other states who have attempted to limit climate change education. Kamenetz reports:

In Connecticut, a recent bill would have cut climate change materials from the state's standards. An Iowa bill would have directly repealed the state's use of Next Generation Science Standards. Others — including in Arizona, Maine, South Dakota and Virginia — would prohibit the teaching of any issue included in a state political party platform, on the grounds of anti-indoctrination. Florida's bill prescribes "balanced" teaching for "controversial" science subjects. (Kamenetz)

The actions taken from the states mentioned above are the reasons why the United States should mandate climate change education. These are the states that need to be educated regarding climate change since they haven’t yet realized the significance of teaching this issue to students as the First Lady Murphy has.

The US should mandate climate change education from K-12th grade because Americans, specifically adults, and teens, don't have sufficient knowledge regarding climate change. Statistics show that many adults and teens fall into the category of not knowing much about climate change. A research conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 517 American teens and 1,513 American adults took a complex questionnaire of 75 questions on climate change to evaluate their knowledge, where they received a grade on an A-F scale. The results for teens were 54 percent received an F, 22 percent received a D, 19 percent received a C, 5 percent received a B, and 1 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 5). While the results for adults were 46 percent received an F, 25 percent received a D, 18 percent received a C, 10 percent received a B, and 2 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 5). Based on the results, a failing grade (F) on this assessment was much higher than a passing grade (A), which signifies that adults and teens in America do not have sufficient knowledge about climate change. However, as a consequence of the questionnaire being difficult, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication made a second scoring scheme, where the grades were curved to get a deeper understanding rather teens and adults know what climate change is. As a result, the teens' results were 12 percent received an F, 16 percent received a D, 35 percent received a C, 35 percent received a B, and 2 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 6). The results for adults were 10 percent received an F, 16 percent received a D, 38 percent received a C, 34 percent received a B, and 2 percent received an A (Leiserowitz et al. 6). Even though the results are higher for the range A through C, only 2 percent of both groups received an A, which not even more than half of adults nor teens received a good performance (B) or satisfactory performance (C). As a result, even with or without a curved grade, neither teens nor adults know much about climate change. These outcomes are due to the lack of enforcement on climate change education from various schools from all over the United States. By mandating climate change education from K-12th grade, students will not only gain knowledge, but they will begin to force change to save society from becoming extinct and Mother Nature from facing the effects of climate change. Older generations did not get the chance to be educated on this topic, but younger generations enrolled in school should get the opportunity to learn about this issue because they are experiencing climate change effects as their sitting in the classroom or at home virtually.

Furthermore, the United States should mandate climate change education from K-12th grade because numerous Americans support this idea and think it is significant to learn about climate change. Statistics have shown that Americans who favor climate change education outweigh those against it. In research conducted by Teachers College Columbia University in 2017, 3,117 American adults of 18 years or older responded to an online survey stating if they found the teaching of climate change important. The results concluded that 44 percent find it "very important," 33 percent find it "somewhat important," 14 percent find it "somewhat unimportant," and 9 percent find it "not important at all" (Pallas and Levy 9). These results prove that more than half of Americans find climate change teaching important due to the small amount stating otherwise. Based on NPR/Ipsos polls, “More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change… .A separate poll of teachers found that they are even more supportive, in theory — 86% agree that climate change should be taught” (Kamenetz). These results outweighed those who neglect climate change education because only 8% of teachers and 6% of parents stated that “Schools should not teach anything about climate change education” (Kamenetz). These statistics prove that there is no reason why climate change education should not be enforced when abundant of Americans are supporting this decision. Action should be taken now as a result because Mother Nature is relying on these future generations to help her because she is becoming weaker each day to save society from becoming extinct since older generations are not helping her.

Some opponents state that the U.S. shouldn’t mandate climate change education from K-12th grade because teachers are not trained enough and don’t have the resources to teach climate change. However, by the U.S. requiring this particular topic in school, teachers will receive the training and resources they need. According to a study conducted by NPR/Ipsos on 505 teachers in America, 32 percent of teachers, who don’t teach climate change, stated to have the resources, while 77 percent of teachers, who do teach climate change, stated to have the resources, but 51 percent of all teachers have the material “to answer students questions about climate change” (Kamenetz). According to these results, less than half of the teachers do not have the necessary material to teach this subject, but having the United States enforce climate change education will force the U.S. educational system to provide teachers with the essential equipment. As reported by The National Center for Science Education research on 1,500 teachers in public schools from all over America, “The reports of teachers show that only a minority of teachers (43%) had any formal instruction in climate change via a college- or university-level class. Only one in ten current science teachers completed a course largely devoted to climate change” (Berbeco et al. 23). Based on these statistics, even science teachers are not educated enough on climate change. Despite such results, once the United States implements Climate Change education, teachers will be trained through workshops or other techniques, just like New Jersey was preparing their teachers before the 2021 school year begins. Melanie Burney, a New Jersey education writer stated, “Gore [former Vice President] is presenting an online workshop this month for New Jersey teachers to help them prepare lesson plans, Tammy Murphy [current First Lady of New Jersey] said. There are also resources available from the state Department of Education and tips from other educators” (Burney). Once New Jersey required climate change education, teachers were given the resources to learn and prepare to teach climate change to their students. If the United States takes action on requiring climate change education in all 50 states from primary to secondary education, every single teacher, 3.7 million teachers, will be provided with the required knowledge and material to teach their students. Once this action is taken, students will begin to comprehend why their hometown or other states are being affected in such crucial ways. This action will be the first step of students understanding and taking certain precautions to save the world because their the future, the ones who will experience the worst effects of climate change.

What would have happened if the United States in the past 50 years or so — when carbon emissions and additional greenhouse gases started to increase — began to enforce climate change education? Would Americans be better informed of the causes of climate change? Could the United States have prevented the current effects of climate change as a result? Could Americans be more supportive and taking better precautions to maintain a healthy country and world? According to the United Nations, in 2019, “General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador) warned the gathering in her opening remarks, stressing that 11 years are all that remain to avert catastrophe” (“Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting”). Currently, only ten years remain to save the United States and the world from facing the horrific effects of climate change. The United States should mandate climate change education from primary to secondary education because Americans do not have sufficient knowledge about climate change and numerous support in adding climate change education into the school’s curriculum. With younger generations learning about what climate change is could lead to knowledgeable citizens and possibly future leaders that prevent human extinction. Requiring climate change education could be the in decreasing the horrific effects of climate change, so why wait? Let’s not wait to take action until the world is falling apart and realize it’s too late. This issue has a clock, and it’s ticking the days human beings have left on this planet.

Works Cited

Berbeco, Minda, A. Lee Hannah, Mark S. McCaffrey, Eric Plutzer, Ann H. Reid, and Joshua Rosenau. “Mixed Messages: How Climate Change is Taught in America’s Public Schools.” National Center for Science Education, 2016, 23.

Burney, Melanie. “In New Jersey schools, climate change education will be mandatory.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 July 2020, www.inquirer.com/education/climate-change-new-jersey-mandatory-curriculum-tammy-murphy-20200702.html.

“First Lady Tammy Murphy Announces New Jersey Will Be First State in the Nation to Incorporate Climate Change Across Education Guidelines for K-12 Schools.” State of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, 3 June 2020,  https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200603b.shtml.

Kamenetz, Anya. “Most Teachers Don't Teach Climate Change; 4 In 5 Parents Wish They Did.” NPR, 22 April 2019, www.npr.org/2019/04/22/714262267/most-teachers-dont-teach-climate-change-4-in-5-parents-wish-they-did.

Leiserowitz, Anthony, Jennifer R. Marlon, and Nicholas Smith. “American Teens’ Knowledge of Climate Change.” Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 2011, 5-6.  

Melillo, Jerry M., and Terese (T.C) Richmond. “Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.” U.S. Global Change Research Program, edited by Gary W. Yohe, 2014, 7.

“Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting.” United Nations, 28 March 2019, www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12131.doc.htm.

Pallas, Aaron, and Oren Pizmony-Levy. “Americans Endorse Climate Change Education.” Teachers College Columbia University, 2019, 9.


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