Maryland Students Go Green - but Not Red, White and Blue; Kids Must Master Environmentalism While Civics Is Marginalized

Article excerpt

Byline: George Nethercutt, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Last month, the Maryland State Board of Education adopted a policy requiring students to exhibit environmental lit- eracy to graduate from high school. In other words, students will be required to take courses on such topics as smart growth, conservation and, undoubtedly, the adverse effects of climate change. In his statement announcing the change, Gov. Martin O'Malley applauded the new requirement and remarked how important it is for our graduates to have a keen understanding of and connection to the natural world.

Something is terribly wrong with this picture. While few would object to students being well-schooled in good environmental practices, shouldn't we be more concerned about what our students aren't learning? The recently released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), issued by the Department of Education, found that just 12 percent of high school seniors tested proficient in U.S. history. According to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, of those Maryland graduates who went immediately to college, more than half (56 percent) needed to take some type of remedial courses to qualify for higher learning.

These troubling statistics reveal the absurdity of tacking on yet another academic fad to clutter our students' basic educational needs. Students who are interested in learning about the environment should not be dissuaded from doing so, but only if they have proved their proficiency in other basic courses, such as U.S. history. Until then, we need to focus on producing well-educated citizens steeped in their country's history and mindful of their civic responsibilities.

Here's the reason: The American system was created 235 years ago and has survived world wars, economic calamity, social upheavals and societal progress unlike any other country in history. This evolution has occurred because Americans treasure one concept and the social ramifications attendant to it. That concept is freedom, a commodity not easily secured without generational sacrifice and historical commitment. Securing freedom has been a singular commitment of American presidents and patriots in and out of government for generations. But its perpetual continuation is not guaranteed.

If succeeding generations of Americans don't understand the concepts of justice, individual rights, free enterprise, capitalism, sovereignty or national security, there can be no guarantee that those concepts - or others like them - will continue. …