Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sustainability in Education?

Even though campuses are getting greener, the classes are not.

A big study of campuses, the Campus Report Card, by the NWF (with others) showed how much various schools are doing in terms of sustainability. They are doing a lot on campus but not much teaching of the concepts in the classroom. (Also see some recent research on Generation E.)

The Campus Report Card is actually two similar studies, on in 2001 and one in 2008. They show that the course offerings of environmental and sustainability programs essentially reduced by half. That is, the average student in 2001 had an 8% chance of having an sustainability/environment class, but that dropped in half to 4% chance by 2008.

In fact the worst educational department was teachers education. "Teacher education, that program that trains K-12 teachers, has about a 15% chance of being able to take a course on sustainability within their major" (Hall et al., 2009, p. 17).

The best guess as to why this drop happened is because of two forces. First, and probably foremost, the prices of oil were really low until after this 2008 study was completed (and then they shot up to ~$150 per barrel). Second, the Bush/Chaney administration was friendly to oil interests and not so friendly to environmental interests (no links to environmental sites comments on this since this is a family-friendly site).

Can we move forward with Sustainability in the US without educating on the subject?
Tell us what you think?

Hall, E., Taylor, S., Zapalski, C., & Hall, T. (2009). Sustainability in education: Green in the facilities, but not in the classrooms. Proceedings of the Society for Advancement of Management, USA.