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(Fwd) Environmental ed book review

Howdy, all--

This is a forward from Wisconsin's Secretary of State, Doug 
LaFollette, regarding a review of a book on environmental education.  
Thought it might interest you all, as I trust there are overlaps in 
reasoning around sustainable ag ed.


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Tue, 16 Sep 1997 14:25:08 -0500 (CDT)
From:          Doug LaFollette <dlafolle@ix.netcom.com>
Subject:       Book review 
To:            recycle@msn.fullfeed.com

A good review of this BAD book just in case you don't know about it. Doug

>FACTS, NOT FEAR: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the
>by Michael Sanera and Jane S. Shaw
>Reviewed by David E. Blockstein, Ph.D. and Martha C. Monroe, Ph.D.
>The main thesis of this book is that children are being scared by
>misinformation presented by their teachers and text books.   In an "it's not
>all that bad" tone, the authors counter "facts" about environmental
>problems with their own interpretation. The authors point out some
>reasonable arguments against ostensibly sloppy environmental education
>-- certainly there are cases where educators can do a better job.  It is
>unlikely that educators would argue with the book's central theme that
>environmental education ought to be based on the very best scientific
>information available, should be appropriately identified when
>uncertainties exist, and should be open to ethical discussions from a
>variety of perspectives with such opinions prominently labeled as such.
>However, the thinking reader is likely to come away from this book
>realizing that the authors are guilty of the same charges of misuse of
>science to further political agendas that they lay against environmental
>educators.  Sanera and Shaw call for critical thinking about
>environmental problems and the way that students are taught.  However,
>exposed to critical thinking, this book falls flat.  It is full of anecdotes,
>gross generalizations, rose-colored statements, and irrelevancies.
>Despite extensive notes and references, almost none of the authors'
>sources are from primary peer-reviewed scientific literature.
>Since this effort is at least as much an ideological and political attack on
>environmental education as it is an attempt to critique the field, some
>background on the authors and book may be helpful:  Sanera is currently
>associated with the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.  Shaw
>works at the Political Economy Research Center, a free market advocacy
>institute.  The copyright of the book is held by the Alabama Family
>Alliance, an organization that opposes education reform and advocates a
>return to Christian values.  The foreword is written by Marilyn Quayle. 
>However, each chapter in the book was reviewed by professionals who
>have some credentials -- although it is a bit of a mystery as to why only
>economists would review the chapter on wildlife and why at least 40%
>of the reviewers are economists.
>The authors base their complaints about environmental education and
>educators on their review of  more than 130 textbooks and 170
>children's books and "numerous examples of curriculum materials from
>environmental and business groups" (p. 5).  They liberally cite examples
>of inappropriately gloomy projections from these materials.  Yet, there is
>no quantitative assessment of how many of the materials they found to
>be "unbalanced" or what percentage of the information in the books they
>found to be biased or inaccurate.  They also present no evidence of the
>extent to which these varied sources are actually used in environmental
>education, or what students believe to be true after their exposure to
>these materials.
>Some of the opinions expressed in the book color "facts" beyond the
>point of responsible critique.  Also, many of the "solutions" presented are
>based on free market principles carried to illogical extremes.  For
>instance, regarding the extinction of the passenger pigeon, they state,
>"With no owners to protect the pigeons, hunters killed them in great
>numbers" (p. 126).  This completely disregards the simple fact that is
>impossible to own a species whose movements across eastern North
>America were such that they nested in different states from year to
>year.  After all, their scientific name means "migrating wanderer."  
>Similarly, the authors at time show a very simplistic or rudimentary
>knowledge of how the ecological world works -- as shown by their
>discussion of the destruction of rainforests (in making a comparison to
>cutting U.S. forests in the 19th century, "it was a temporary phase for
>us, and it should be temporary for the rain forest, too," p. 110), and
>stratospheric ozone depletion ("this decline is so small that it is hard to
>distinguish from natural changes," p. 171).  Presenting possible benefits
>from global warming, the authors contend that: "More carbon dioxide in
>the air benefits many plants.  It causes more luxuriant growth, larger
>flowers, and greater crop yield," (p. 157).  This statement ignores
>scientific evidence that it is often a lack of nitrogen, not carbon, that is
>limiting plant growth.  It also assumes that larger plants are intrinsically
>Stories of school messages from teachers may be equally flawed.  A
>recent report from the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education
>exposes a different history and context to the familiar claims of bad
>school-based EE, some of which are presented in Facts, Not Fear.  For
>example, Melissa Poe's letter to the President, which is used in the book
>to accuse schools of teaching political activism and that the world is in
>danger (p. 4) was inspired by a well-documented and hopeful television
>special.  Similarly, the mother who reported her child lamenting, "Mom,
>they killed trees to make my bed" (p. 3) is not worried about what
>schools are teaching, as the book implies, but hopes to see EE improved
>and continued.
>In summary, the book probably will tell readers more about the
>techniques and arguments of those currently attacking environmental
>education than it will help improve the field.  Because "Facts, Not Fear" is
>being extensively promoted, however, environmental education
>professionals should become familiar with it.
>Blockstein, D.E. and H.B. Tordoff, 1985. "Gone forever: a contemporary
>look at the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon," American Birds,
>Bohart, B., M. Manilov, and T. Schwartz, 1997.  Endangered Education,
>from Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, Oakland, CA (e-mail:
>David Blockstein is Senior Scientist at the Committee for the National
>Institute for the Environment.  Martha Monroe is Resource Center Director
>for GreenCOM at the Academy for Educational Development.  Both are in
>Washington, DC.
>FACTS, NOT FEAR: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the
>Environment (1996).  $14.95 from Regnery Publishing, Inc. in Washington,

      Doug La Follette         Wisconsin Secretary of State
                               Box 7848, Madison, WI.  53707 
                               608-266-8888  fax 608-266-3159

      Technology is of no use to us if it is used without respect for
the earth and its processes.                      
                                  - Aldo Leopold

Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems 
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
Voice: (608) 262-8018   FAX: (608) 265-3020
If you knew what life was worth, you
would look for yours on earth.  --Bob Marley