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Education - A Flame in the Field

Please join us on Monday, March 6, from 8 PM to 9 PM EST.  Bob Winkler will be guest blogging. In advance of his blog, he provided the following commentary:

The Vermont Climate Action Partnership recently submitted a grant proposal to the Beldon Fund to develop a regional climate justice partnership entitled Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Leadership, Health and Community Outreach Through Education. The proposal envisioned training future leaders and establishing a common environmental culture in partnership with civic, educational and community organizations. It also aimed at developing energy related GHG emissions core curricula, pursuing regional outreach and ecological community coalitions, and promoting general awareness of health issues associated with carbon emissions. Though the grant was not awarded the vision remains intact.

VCAP is also working to introduce an amendment to Vermont Bill H.49 which established the Climate Crisis and Opportunity Act.  This act’s goal is to create a common energy culture in partnership with statewide civic, educational, business and community organizations.

I came to university life thirty some years ago and have remained involved in academia ever since. I found that campus projects evolve from start to finish on average every five years. That means that at least seven environmental/ecological dreams could have been realized since then. That seven generations of students could have potentially passed on this message to their children and beyond. Amongst the current global turmoil this remains a constant beacon for us to take hope in.   

As a core value in our society [and that could be a debate unto itself] - how effective are educational endeavors as primary tools toward bringing about change, or is its role merely to reinforce the conservative status quo?

Posted by Charlene Johnston on March 6, 2006 at 06:28 PM | Permalink


Thanks for blogging Bob. I'll try to stop by later.

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 6, 2006 7:26:19 PM

Thanks Jessica and Charlene for inviting me tonight. I thought a lot about how education can shape the future. The main drive behind both the Beldon proposal and the Vt amendment was to develop curriculum that addresses the health hazards associated with carbon emissions. To educate leaders within public schools, colleges and health associations in general so that they could work "in the field" to educate new generations of environmental activists. It's just so sad that we spend so much on killing and destroying so much throughout the world, yet can't find the time or money to create a healthy, sound, and safe environmental for all to live in. This is what the VCAP strives for.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 7:49:31 PM

Hi, Bob! Thanks for blogging with us tonight!

There's been ample demonstration of the attempts by the conservatives in this country to have education to "reinforce the conservative status quo" as you put it. For instance, the attempts to fire a teacher for talking about the Bush administration in a manner that isn't consistent with the RNC Talking Points.

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:10:12 PM

In addition, the attempts to bring us back in time and have teachers preaching religion in the classroom to demonstrate that evolution is a theory.

How about the rewriting of an environmental textbook by the oil industry! That one took the cake for me...of course, a school board in Texas used that textbook. I'm sure they aren't alone.

On the brightside though, I am the product of reading about environmental concerns when I was a young adult out of college (the first time thru). : )

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:13:14 PM

Environmental education outreach is one component of the EPA NPDES Phase 2 (stormwater) permit requirements. This became a rule before the current administration though.

This rule encourages municipalities to educate their citizens/businesses about the consequence of their everyday actions on stormwater impacts. Many municipalities provide brochures, posters, cable access information to reach the adult community. However, most think that the best bang for the buck is to enter the classrooms and communicate the message to the children. They absorb it without predetermined notions and then bring the message home. That message is often better received at home via the child than through any other medium.

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:17:43 PM

Hi Charlene - I just had a problem posting. I mentioned that the media also adds to the problem. We view silly soap opera accounts of events that don't even come need having to deal with the real problems of our society. I guess I'm thinking that are there really enough true teachers out there to make a difference, or is it just up to each individual?

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:18:43 PM

I agree Charlene -that's why the VCAP has worked to develop, and have access to state research - which can be included in curriculum for college greening certificates, and public school teacher awareness and involvement.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:21:23 PM

Hi Charlene, got you a great book tonight, you may already have it, "Dude Where's My Country?". Do you have it.

Talking about Education, very important, want to stay on target tonight. :)

Posted by: Ryan | Mar 6, 2006 8:21:30 PM

A larger (but related) issue for me is that financial aid for low income students keeps getting cut, while higher education costs rise.

Eventually, only the wealthy (and usually conservative) will be able to send their children to college. Those children will be more prosperous as adults than the children who did not have the opportunity to go to college and will end up being able to insert their conservative views into society and politics, and the same with the next generation and so on...

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 6, 2006 8:23:10 PM

Unfortunately, individuals are in an information overload these days. I even have a hard time keeping up with world and national news. The only local news I get is from friends/neighbors. For instance, I just found out that my photo was in the local paper last week.

While we continue to educate via school/universities, we need to change the way we advertise solutions to the public. Simply advertising solutions is social marketing. That practice assumes that if a person is aware of the impact of their actions, they will change their behavior. Yet, awareness and economic self-interest do not result in meaningful behavioral change.

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:26:22 PM

I agree Jessica - just recently at UVM we talked about getting that bigger piece of the student pie which is growing smaller and smaller every year in VT. The questions posed, but of course not addressed, is what about the state college system which is already running low on money, students and the like. I know that at colleges like Johnson State, affordable education is a must and adds valued and educated people into the local workforce. Without that grassroots involvement would be difficult at best.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:29:01 PM

Thanks, Ry! I read it so keep it and read it yourself. It'll get you motivated!

Jessica is so right that the disintegration of financial aid and increase of tuition are barriers that have to be removed! I wouldn't have made it to college (either time) without the benefit of financial aid. Neither would my sister who is now a Pediatrician.

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:31:25 PM

Char - I think the key is to get people to think about the events around them. How do they fit into the small and large picture. It's amazing how many college students haven't been taught about global warming. Finding out in college is almost too late because there's a thought process that goes along with investigating, questioning the world around you. We need to develop that early on.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:33:45 PM

Bob, Are any of your students involved in VCAP? If so, how do they help? What do you see as the factors that motivate them?

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:36:36 PM

Again, the money issue is huge. It seems no matter where I go - education becomes the blunt of jokes and included with those things that aren't enjoyable. Remember those snow days - we don't have to go to school!! Our values are totally mesh up. Yet the business of education rolls on.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:39:03 PM

Finding out in college is almost too late because there's a thought process that goes along with investigating, questioning the world around you. We need to develop that early on.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:33:45 PM

Agreed, which brings up the class (no pun intended) issue again. The lower class is usually too busy just trying to survive to investigate anything, say nothing about teaching their children to do so. And even if the children have a natural inclination to investigate/question, they often don't have the tools to do so (computers in the home and/or schools...thank you NCLB).

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 6, 2006 8:43:50 PM

Each semester I seem to have one or two students that actively get engaged in working with the 10% challenge working on pamphlets or presentations that they deliver in their classes. Many go to climate conferences and workshops put on by Vt Natural Resource Council, Vt Renewable Energy Assoc., Efficiency Vermont [building contractors], Vt Organic Farmers Assoc., Vt Businesses for Social Responsilbility, Native Energy - to name a few. Some on the UVM campus are involved with the Environmental Council, the Climate Action Committee or various student environmental groups - so yes, they do get involved.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:44:54 PM

Bob, there's been a lot of case studies that show environmental education can work with adults when partnered with a community-based social marketing program. (I would say that this is something that Governor Dean discovered and that's why he was so successful in generating enthusiasm and empowering people. The process is as follows: Explore and identify the barriers to changing behavior, structure a program around those barriers, exercise this strategy in a small scale (pilot) study, evaluate the results, and apply the process across your target audience. This process is applied within the target community to identify the most meaningful barriers and solutions and to encourage and motivate individuals through personal interaction. Neighborhood captains and leaders of social organizations are often good to enlist for the public outreach.

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:48:11 PM

Jessica - it's a constant struggle to enlighten parents and children about the greater world around them. We seem to get the message across with sports - but when it comes to environmental issues, music, theatre and other cultural endeavors the willingness isn't there. A child cannot be at odds with his family and upbringing. It takes a strong person, directed by a strong teacher to bring about that change.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:48:35 PM

Char - the whole process you outlined is truly great - and it does work. It's a process that I work with in my class where we develop something from nothing - merely taking the knowledge we have and developing the thought process that evolves from sharing that knowledge and creating a plan of action on a single issue that appears revelant to the class. It's the thought process that can be developed in primary school.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:53:18 PM

Gotta run. Thanks again Bob.

Posted by: Jessica | Mar 6, 2006 8:53:55 PM

Thanks Jessica - I only hope others are listening and thinking about what we've said - and continue to engage in change. It's hard work - but something that has to be done regardless of the odds.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 8:57:31 PM

Sports, agreed, Bob. That plays into your media mention earlier. Sports has become pervasive. Interest is heightened by society's need to know the scores and the stats. Sports knowledge has become the way to fit in.

The question is how do we make knowledge of issues that affect the average person as interesting. This is where Liane could help us....framing!

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:57:33 PM

Thanks, Bob and Jessica!

Bob, Don't worry, I know several people that are out there listening right now. They just don't like typing. ; )

Got to prep for a early meeting tomorrow. Thanks again!

Posted by: Charlene | Mar 6, 2006 8:59:05 PM

Ah, yes, framing. That actually takes time also - which doesn't seem to be what the average person wants - still most of what I do during a semester is frame awareness - thus the dawn. Thanks for having me blog along with you. It's always a pleasure and honor. Later...

Posted by: Bob | Mar 6, 2006 9:01:44 PM

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