Friday, December 2, 2011

Environmentalists Creeping into Classrooms

Actually, they have been creeping for years and now it's more like stampeding through the classrooms.

I could mention the recent news about David Suzuki and his website basically promoting to children that they must save the environment or bye bye Santa. But that has been covered on many blogs.

So I will just concentrate on what has been going on in my childrens' schools.

My daughter is 9. She has had several environmentally-friendly-laced lessons spread across many subjects over the years, but they are becoming more and more blatant. For the past two weeks, she has been bringing homework that is discussing the amount of packaging used in projects. She is a smart kid, has had very good marks all through school so far, but she is stumped on this stuff. She had to do things like evaluate the amount of packaging used in a box of chocolates and basically defame it for not being enviro-friendly. I have pretty much written every part of her homework on this topic and I literally have only had to help her with homework about 3 times in the past but have had to help every day she brings home this particular stuff.

Tonight I figured it out - she has not been taught anything about WHY the product is packaged that way. She has not been taught how a factory works (I'm going to make her watch some episodes of How It's Made!). She has only been given papers with pictures of the various layers of packaging certain products come in and asked if they are environmentally friendly or not. Whatever happened to learning about something by learning first how it works and then expanding after that?

Anyhow, she had to do things like go around the house and look at various products we have and list some enviro-friendly and non-eco products we use, and evaluate whether we should be buying/using them or not. She is NINE. Why are they trying to drum this into her head at such a young age? It is really driving me crazy. I'm sure her teacher is wary of me by now because I have left numerous comments on her homework these past couple-few weeks and it clearly shows my displeasure. I admit that I chickened out on directly talking about it at parent-teacher interviews but that was before this latest enslaught of projects came home.

I asked my daughter if she knew how the chocolates got from the factory to the homes and she had a totally blank expression. I explained a bit about how it's made, packed, transported by plane/train/automobile (or all three), store shelves, eventually your home, etc etc. I asked her what those chocolates might look like if they were just placed inside a small box all in a pile and then sent on their way. She looked blank again. She had no concept whatsoever about any of it. She is only being taught to criticize the amount of packaging involved. Well, I would like to see what Sally Tree Hugger would think if her hubby bought her a box of chocs that had virtually no packaging and she opened up her surprise to find a melted-hardened-remelted heap of broken chocolates inside. YUMMY! Oh thanks hunny :) So thoughtful!

I got my daughter to write 'If consumers do not like the packaging of a product, they do not have to buy it' at the bottom of her page. It's all about choice at the end of the day, isn't it?

And tonight my 14 yr old son comes home to tell me about a project he has to do in Language Arts class. LA. Not science. Not social studies. Language Arts/English class.

He is supposed to be learning about the proper format for business letters. So, the project is to write a business-style letter to the principal of a fake school, from the 'point of view of an Environmentalist'. Are you friggin kidding me? That is exactly what the teacher said. So there it creeps into English class. She would probably say she is trying to make the class more interesting and keeping up with current events is one way to be more interesting - but there are a multitude of ways to do that without dragging environmentalist ideas in. What about enterprising or inventing? How about have the kids write a business letter to a fake company telling them about an idea they have or an invention they have made that they think the business would be interested in? If the idea is to learn business letter format - what better way to get the kids to think ahead to their own futures and abilities by having them pretend they invented something? Or have a great idea for a new product? Maybe a kid could go all sci-fi and pretend they made a real time machine and want to write to NASA. It doesn't matter if it's totally far-fetched or something more real, the point is to have the letter end up in a nice proper business format.

Instead, they will be writing letters that detail how a school could become 'more Green' (teacher's words again). What does a green school do for these kids in the future REALLY? Sure it teaches them to be more aware of a few things, like garbage and waste (which is a serious problem for everyone all around the world), but there were other ideas flying around like going no-paper. Having all students using e-readers for text work instead of books, all smart boards instead of chalk boards, all laptops or iPads instead of writing on paper. Those are some ideas the kids were coming up with. My son is going to stick with garbage/waste (having the school start recycling bins for bottles and cans and contacting a local recycling depot to pick them up periodically for free by reaping the proceeds). Garbage IS a problem. You don't need to measure emissions and wind speed and solar energy and oil/gas for that. You can see it every day in every place. So his idea sits well with me. But the others - oh please. A few bins is a lot cheaper for the tax payers for each school than thousands upon thousands of computer gadgets. But whatever.

My point is, the schools are bringing this in more and more and it is driving me crazy. I have chosen to talk to my children about it so they can have different perspectives and make up their own minds, or be influenced by my opinion because I am, after all, their parent. If it's okay to have the school board and teacher's opinion influence them, then I think it's okay to have my opinion influence them as well.

A month or so ago, my daughter brought home a project that was supposed to be learning about our province - Alberta. At first glance all appears normal - maps, cities, towns, rivers, lakes, mountains, etc. The usual stuff we all learned. Some fun info on the dinosaurs discovered here, different habitats and climate regions, etc. But then I flip the page and find a whole section solely dedicated to the Alberta Oil Sands. In the very first sentence of the unit, it said "sometimes known as the Tar Sands". I drew a little arrow from that part and wrote in the margin "the MEDIA terms it the tar sands, which is in fact incorrect". The children should not be taught that it is sometimes called the Tar Sands! What the hell? Who allows this stuff to slip through? That was the only section related to the oil industry in Alberta. Nothing about coal or gas, forestry, fishing, etc that I recall learning about when doing Alberta projects at my old elementary school. What happened to those? Do they not exist? And all Alberta is is a place for rocky mountains, dinosaurs, and tar sands? Whatever! Again, my daughter is 9 and at a highly impressionable age and she is being taught to call it 'tar sands'. That's lovely!

Her father and step father help keep a roof over her head and food in her mouth because of the oil sands projects. I will be writing that in the margin if she brings anything home that disparages the projects up there. This article happened to be very careful to just talk about bitumen and extraction, but it blew it's cover by references the incorrect slang term of 'tar sands' right off the bat.

My son had to make his carbon footprint when he was 12. We were actually the lowest (aka 'best') scoring family in his class, which he thought was funny. He has had teachers send home work that involved talking about taking public transit or riding a bike to school to reduce emissions (sorry, but isn't a school bus public transit??)... while the very teachers leading the classes drive their cars. Gag me.

They have both learned about using solar energy in the home but never once so far had any project looking at the COST of doing this. My father in law wanted solar panels on his home a few years back, thinking he could enjoy his golden years without having to worry about a big power bill at his farm every month - until he got the quotes from various companies being between $50,000 and $70,000 for just his house and few little sheds. Do they learn THAT in school? Of course not.

I could go on and on but I will leave with a hilarious project (actually more like bewildering) that my 9 yr old brought home last month, before the long weekend. Believe it or not, the project was about the packaging at Fast Food restaurants and it actually said to go to FIVE different fast food places and order a HAMBURGER, FRIES, SOFT DRINK, and an ICE CREAM SUNDAE (x5 for five diff restaurants). It said to order it TAKE OUT and bring it home and fill in the chart listing everything that was given in the bag. Then at the end, compare all of the restaurants to list in order from best to worst, who used the least to the most packaging.

OMFG.

Are they crazy>???? Like seriously. Teach kids year after year about healthy eating - slam parents down in the media for taking their kids to mcdonald's - support forcing come restaurants to stop giving out toys in their kids' meals ------ and then send a project home requesting the child eat at FIVE fast food restaurants just to COMPARE PACKAGING. I was livid.

I wrote at the top of the paper "Daughter is not doing this project. We rarely eat out, but I am certainly not eating out 5 times in the next 4 days just to fill in this paper". Then I wrote in the conclusion at the bottom "One way to avoid excess packaging is to NOT EAT TAKE OUT FOOD" lol. Geezus murphy. What is going on?

The other side of the paper had the children open their lunch kits every day and write down all the packaging their parent put inside. Oh great, just what I need at 6am - my 9 yr old telling me that I am not making her an environmentally friendly lunch. Fan-freaking-tastic. But the fast food one just blew my mind.

Read your kids' textbooks and homework papers. Check what they are working on. You might get a nasty surprise.

3 comments:

  1. I was a high school teacher for 35 years. In those days there were far too many teachers who went from Junior Kindergarten to teacher's pension without ever stepping outside the box of the education industry. Their only knowledge of the real world of work was what Hollywood and TV networks showed them. Sadly, most of Hollywood's efforts show a world that doesn't exist.

    And it's getting worse - as the excellent essay above shows.

    We graduate kids that can't read or spell or do math or write a decent paragraph on anything but like their barely literate teachers, they are experts on everything.

    Voucher schools with an intelligent curriculum and common external exams are the answer. Don't hold your breath.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you want to know what has happened to environmentalism taking over education in Alberta just check out the US Sonoran offshoot Canmore based Sonoran Institute/Chinook Institute inflitration of the Alberta cirriculum. Check the role of Gareth Thompson and these groups taking over the secretariat of the cirriculum.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Keep up the good work. Any teacher dumb enough to require my child spend money at fast food restaurants would have been asked for money to purchase said products. It could have been done sooo easily in class - teacher does the shopping, refrigerates the results, and the class forms groups and compares the waste left over. Then, there should have been a discussion as to how else could the food have been distributed with proper discussion as to cleanliness and protection from contamination - including health requirements as to temperature.

    ReplyDelete

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