Education Ecology Has Its Own Climate Crisis

26 04 2007

As I follow the women’s health blog tour of the wise and well-informed Teresa Heinz Kerry, I can’t get education out of my mind. More than education ABOUT the environment, I’m now pondering education AS environment — at every stop I’m wondering how healthy our ecology of “education” is, and whether we’ve acted with sufficient care and concern for the health impact of artificial learning environments, the ones in which we bind children — culturally, economically, legally — for many years of forced systemic exposure?

I am worried about the toxic effects on humans of institutional school systems.

After Abu Ghirab, a Stanford psychologist detailed how “place” can win over “person” through concepts like institutionalization, escalating dehumanization, stress and stereotyping, the seduction of boredom, the evil of inaction and much more. Sounds too much like what’s gone wrong between school and education — we’ve institutionalized thinking and learning and productive work, and lost the individuals we meant to inspire and empower in the process.

So I can’t help focusing on all the ways Thinking Parents can create healthier education environments for ourselves, for our own children and families, for our neighbors and communities. I’ve been struck at almost every stop by the connections, how the ideas and information are the same and how opening your eyes to one can open your mind to the other.

I don’t know whether lifelong environmentalists following THK’s thoughtful interviews are opening up to healthy education concepts the way I (the lifelong educator) find myself opening up to healthy environmental thinking. But I hope so! I believe it’s possible, important, perhaps critical, that we begin to understand education and environment as symbiotic.

For just one small example, homeschooling mom Meredith at Violet Voices hosted THK Wednesday and reports her very sensible caution to moms about the hundreds of individual substances choking our children’s environment, and even worse, interacting in harmful ways we can’t detect and thus can’t hope to prevent or control.

Now try reading the same response with education ecology in mind (imagine curriculum standards as chemicals, et cetera):

. . .we and our children are exposed every day to thousands of man-made chemicals. Hundreds of those chemicals can now be found in the tissue of every human being on the planet, including ones who are still in the womb. Most of us don’t know what chemicals are in the products we use, and there are no warning labels. Even though we know about . . . individual chemicals, we don’t know what the “cocktail effect” is. Some of the ingredients may be inactive by themselves, but mixed with others inside our bodies, they may be dangerous, especially to children.

In the news is the seemingly inert bribery of the government paying parents for sending their children to school and for other activities deemed healthy.

Bloomberg’s program would pay 2,500 poor families up to $5,000 a year to meet similar goals. To avoid long lines in government offices and ensure parents don’t have to miss work to pick up the cash, New York City officials are creating a plan to deposit the money directly into participants’ bank accounts.

Lifesaving drug, or toxic chemical? Maybe that depends on how healthy or unhealthy our whole culture makes the educational ecology as a life system?



5 responses

27 04 2007

Speaking of healthy environments for children to learn about chemistry! — look what Daryl the homeschooling dad chemist found:

“Several educators indeed are working on chemistry curricula that could be used by homeschoolers regardless of their beliefs. . .”

April 16, 2007 Volume 85, Number 16 p. 49-51
Science Of Homeschooling

“As homeschooling catches on,
demand grows for a broader spectrum of chemistry curricula . . .”

By Linda Wang

. . .More parents are also deciding to homeschool their children beyond middle school, and as they do so, they are discovering that the availability of already prepared chemistry curricula is quite limited. The situation is especially challenging for secular homeschoolers, who say there are virtually no secular high school chemistry curricula out there for the homeschooling community.

The market is slowly responding to these trends, and several high school chemistry curricula that cater to a diverse audience of homeschoolers now are in development. In addition to helping families teach the fundmental concepts of chemistry, these curricula address an important practical question: How do you carry out lab experiments that are challenging and informative yet safe to be carried out in the home?

Families homeschool for a variety of reasons. One common reason is that parents are dissatisfied with the quality of institutional education. David and Annemarie remember sending their oldest daughter, Ripley, to public school for kindergarten, only to watch their once-inquisitive child become increasingly quiet and withdrawn. “I watched the curiosity get stifled out of her,” Annemarie says of Ripley. “I couldn’t allow that to happen.”

After talking with a psychologist and considering options such as private school and hiring a tutor, the Strouds turned to homeschooling.

David, who produces educational materials for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, comes up with all of his own chemistry lessons and labs, mostly by pulling together resources he finds in books and on the Web.

16 02 2008

The New York Times
February 16, 2008
For ‘EcoMoms,’ Saving Earth Begins at Home

The notion of “ecoanxiety” has crept into the culture here … a Berkeley mother so stressed out about the extravagance of her nightly baths that she started to reuse her daughter’s bath water. Where there is ecoanxiety, of course, there are ecotherapists.

“The truth is, we’re not living very naturally,” said Linda Buzzell, a therapist in Santa Barbara who publishes the quarterly EcoTherapy News and often holds sessions in her backyard permaculture food forest. “We’re in our cars, staring at the computer screen, separated most of the day from the people we love.”

“Activism can help counteract depression,” Ms. Buzzell added. “But if we get caught up in trying to save the world single-handedly, we’re just going to burn out.”

14 07 2008
Only Brains Innocent of Sex Hormones Can Learn?? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] I should go back to the Teresa Heinz Kerry blog tour collection and see what we can spring forward with . . . more on that here, thinking about the […]

22 02 2009
Climate Contrarian: Abandon Hope?? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] wealth into hope for women and children living in hellish circumstance here on earth. And see Teresa Heinz Kerry and what she’s doing not just for the earth or climate directly, but to educate and equip […]

26 05 2009
And Now for Something Completely Cool at School « Cocking A Snook!

[…] I’ve learned both from pleasure and pain, that it’s very important to me personally. Teresa Heinz Kerry knows how important surroundings are to the health of all women and children worldwide (not just in […]

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