Green Lake School Teaches Only One Side of Issue

Published February 7, 2011

The Green Lake Global & Environmental Academy (GLGEA) is the environmental charter school for seventh and eighth graders within the Green Lake Public School District in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

GEA opened as a charter school within the Green Lake School District in central Wisconsin in 2008.

Biology or Global Warming?
Unlike the School for Environmental Studies (SES) at the Minneapolis Zoo (see story on opposite page), the Green Lake Academy does teach science—but only biology. Some parents have expressed concerns about the school: (1) its limited curriculum; and (2) reports the biology teacher involved, Tom Eddy, was teaching his students global warming is a crisis and is manmade. He reportedly had been showing An Inconvenient Truth to his classes and no other films.

Asked about this situation, the school district administrator said the school teaches global warming as part of its week celebrating “wetlands.”

‘The Debate Is Over’
The administrator referred further inquiries to Eddy, who confirmed the validity of these parental concerns in an interview. “The science [that global warming is a manmade phenomenon] is settled,” he said. There is “overwhelming evidence” that global warming is manmade, he said. “The debate is over.”

Asked what evidence he was relying on, he said primarily the United Nations’ 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. This report is out of date and contradicted by thousands of scientists around the world who point out influences on climate are extremely complex, involving matters of soil chemistry, physics, oceanography, and astrophysics, among others.

Deliberately, Illegally Ignored Evidence
Provided with Heartland DVD’s and books on these complex subjects, Eddy took them only when pressed and said he did not have time to review them, even when told Wisconsin law requires schools to teach students “analytical skills, including the ability to think rationally, solve problems, use various learning methods, gather and analyze information, make critical and independent judgments and argue persuasively.”

Wisconsin’s law—when schools, unlike GEA, follow it—is in accord with recommended approaches to environmental education.

“Often people have the misconception that environmental education is training tree huggers,” Brian Day, executive director of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) told the Harvard Education Letter in an article published in its January/February 2011 issue. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.” In areas where controversial issues are involved, such as climate change, coal mining, and oil spills, teachers ought to teach both sides and not take sides, he said.

Teaching, Not Proselytizing
Gerald Lieberman, director of the California-based State Education and Environment Roundtable and principal consultant for the California Education and the Environment Initiative, agrees. Teachers should teach the context of environmental issues without proselytizing, he recommends.

“As soon as anybody thinks you are trying to tell kids what the conclusion is—for example, global warming is happening—as soon as you do that, you’re in trouble,” Lieberman said. “As soon as you say, ‘Here’s the answer,’ you’ve blown good instruction.

“At the end of the day,” he added, “we want to empower students to be able to make the right decisions, but it’s their choice whether they are going to buy an SUV or they are going to buy a Toyota hybrid, and the good teachers recognize that.”

—Maureen Martin

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