Environmentalist Zealots Indoctrinate Students at Taxpayer Expense

Published December 1, 2008

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups is pushing for the implementation of a federally financed environmentalist agenda in the curricula of all public schools.

The benign-sounding No Child Left Inside Act, HB 3036, won U.S. House of Representatives approval on a 294-109 vote September 19, with only one Democrat (Rep. Brad Ellsworth of Indiana) opposed and two ranking Republicans on the Education Committee (Reps. Howard McKeon of California and Michael Castle of Delaware) in support.

Congress went into fall recess before the Senate acted on the measure, but the bill could be integrated with the No Child Left Behind reauthorization next year or attached to a spending bill in the post-election lame-duck session.

Two dozen environmental groups, led by the Sierra Club and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, are lobbying for the measure, which would award grants for integrating environmentalist precepts into curricula, academic standards, and teacher preparation.

The money could go not just to school districts but to the very nonprofit advocacy organizations working to pass the bill.

Objectivity Voted Down

By a 230-172 vote, the House rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) that would have barred lobbying groups from receiving the grants and would have sought scientific accuracy and balance in what students were taught about the environment through the funded programs.

The coalition’s Web site, hosted by the Chesapeake Bay group, indicates the slant it would seek in classrooms by defining “the problem” as, among other things, climate change, childhood obesity, and something called “nature-deficit disorder.”

That is a term author Richard Louv coined in his book Last Child in the Woods, where he argued children are losing touch with the natural world and hence becoming vulnerable to maladies such as attention deficit disorder, depression, and obesity.

The theory is an intriguing (if unproven) one, but should Washington take over from parents, churches, and community groups the task of taking kids out on hikes to commune with nature?

Humans Blamed

As for climate change, the coalition asserts, “the issue of global climate change requires Americans to understand the human-created challenges facing our world and the options facing our nation moving forward. It is projected that major societal change will be needed in response to global warming. To that end, each of us may be called upon to make changes to reduce the impact on the environment.”

That statement assumes global warming is occurring as a result of the activities of man, and that drastic, mandatory changes in modern living will be necessary to curb it. Clearly, the federally funded curriculum would side with the forces led by former Vice President Al Gore falsely contending the science is settled on all this and no room exists for debate.

If enacted, No Child Left Inside, the chief sponsor of which is Maryland Democrat Rep. John Sarbanes, would require state grant recipients to show how they were measuring “student environmental literacy” and instilling environmental know-how in teachers. Advocacy groups receiving grants would design their own evaluation and accountability plans.

Important Story Overlooked

In a September 22 statement, EdWatch Action, a citizens group in Minnesota, called HB 3036 an “unconstitutional expansion of the federal government into the realm of education that promotes unscientific, non-academic, politically correct environmental propaganda.

“The environmental standards, curriculum, and programs funded by this bill that are to be put in every subject would take valuable time and resources from core academic issues,” the group continued. “The grants also promote programs that are supposed to teach bogus, subjective, and political concepts like self-esteem and environmental justice.”

In an early autumn dominated by news of a mind-boggling $700 billion federal bailout of financial institutions, this effort to use federal power to mandate environmentalist indoctrination throughout the nation’s classrooms received little ink or airtime.

No Child Left Inside deserves a lot more attention in the context of the larger question of whether Americans should be able to choose the kinds of schools they want for their children or have to accept the standardized, politicized versions mandated by politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups.

Robert Holland ([email protected]) is senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.