Receiving an Incomplete Education? as Some States Ban Teaching Climate Change, SPS Gives Leeway to Address It

By Allen, Jim | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), September 29, 2019 | Go to article overview

Receiving an Incomplete Education? as Some States Ban Teaching Climate Change, SPS Gives Leeway to Address It


Allen, Jim, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


During last week's climate strike in downtown Spokane, students weren't shy about sharing what they've learned about climate change.

Kids as young as 15 cited statistics and historical trends on everything from increasing carbon dioxide emissions to the extinction of of animal species.

They knew their stuff. But in most cases, they didn't learn it in class.

"That's part of the problem," said Lily Ashdown, a student at Lakeside High School in Nine Mile Falls. "We're not learning much about this in school."

That's true in Spokane and the rest of the nation. According to a recent poll by National Public Radio, more than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change.

That support is bipartisan; nine in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans agree the subject needs to be taught.

Teachers are even more supportive, with 86% believing that the next generation needs a better academic background in what could be its most important issue.

And yet, the climate protests highlighted an ongoing disconnect: While most states and many school districts have classroom standards that at least mention human-caused climate change, many teachers aren't dealing with the subject.

Several students at the climate protest said the subject wasn't taught in class.

Cerissa Moeller, a senior at Mead, said teachers "don't discuss it at all."

Ainsley Johnson, a senior at Cheney High School, said climate change science also isn't taught extensively there.

"My science teacher discussed it one time, that was it," she said.

"Maybe it's an avoided issue," said Seth Bachman, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark who said he gets much of his information from the New York Times.

Another LC sophomore, Cesca Konshuk-Mas, believes that "it's an important issue that everyone seems to be dodging."

Well, not everyone.

LC history teacher Carolyn Petek has made climate change study a part of current-events discussion.

"I welcome that because it's my philosophy of teaching," said Petek, who for more than four decades has viewed social studies and history as the proper context for current events - no matter how political they may be.

As a high school student in California in the late 1970s, Petek brought up the still-simmering subject of Watergate. …

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