The tenets of radical environmentalism are being incorporated into school curricula at every level of education, thereby indoctrinating ever-growing numbers of young people. While American schoolchildren have considerable trouble with reading and math, they know all about the evils of global warming, acid rain, nuclear power, deforestation, big oil, and capitalism -- thanks to their abundant exposure to "green" textbooks purporting to explain these Earth-in-the-balance issues.
But these texts are notoriously one-sided in their presentation. They are, in effect, advocacy texts, favoring socialist solutions to environmental problems over capitalist solutions -- with a dash of New Age spirituality thrown in for good measure.
''With few exceptions, textbook treatment of environmental issues is influenced by an ideological view that presents human beings as evil and blames the United States in particular and Western industrial societies in general for every environmental ill,'' says Michael Sanera, head of the Center for Environmental Education Research at the Claremont (California) Institute. Along with co-author Jane Shaw, Sanera wrote ''Facts, Not Fear: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment.'' This publication reviewed more than 130 texts and 170 environmental books for students in grades K-12. Among the titles reviewed were the following:
- Access to Health (Prentice Hall): This book says that the Earth's natural resources "will become so depleted that our very existence will become economically and environmentally impossible." This, students are told, will cause "famine, disease, pollution, unrest, crime and international conflicts."
- Earth Science: The Challenge of Discovery (D.C. Heath): After informing students that "[t]he world could run out of petroleum by the year 2080," this book asks: "What can you do to lessen the demand for fossil fuels?" It then advises: "Reduce greenhouse gases by using less fossil fuel. Walk, ride a bike, or take a bus instead of a car for short trips." This text also claims that proven reserves of copper, zinc and petroleum "will be depleted in 60, 40, and 30 years respectively."
- World Geography Today (Holt): Claiming that world petroleum supplies will last "only another 50 years or so," this book says: "[The] people of the world must share and use the planet's resources more wisely.... Will the richer nations share their wealth and resources with the less fortunate nations?"
- Biology, an Everyday Experience (Glencoe): This book claims that "the supply of fossil fuels is being used up at an alarming rate," and that "governments must help save our fossil fuel supply by passing laws" limiting their use.
- Concepts and Challenges in Earth Science (Globe): This book states that if global warming continues, "New York City would almost be covered with water. Only the tops of very tall buildings will be above the water."
- Biosphere 2000: Protecting Our Global Environment (HarperCollins): According to this book: "As human activity interferes with the earth's capacity to maintain a maximum range of tolerances for life, history traces the roots of degrading activity to: the advent of agriculture and the rise of civilization; the Judeo-Christian view of human beings as having domination over the earth; the industrial and scientific revolutions; and the rise of capitalism."
Critics note that the foregoing texts, in addition to scaring children with apocalyptic views, place little emphasis on principles of basic economics -- prices, scarcity, supply and demand -- and how these factors affect the use of resources and the environment. For instance, if gasoline prices rise, people drive less. They use substitutes, such as a bicycle, bus or subway. Rising demand and higher prices will generate greater supplies. But such insights are rarely found in green texts.
"In essence, the environmental educational campaign is aimed at turning our nation's schoolchildren into environmentalists,'' said Jo Kwong, a researcher at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, in a report for the Center for the Study of American Business. ''We are producing a nation of 'doomsday kids' or 'eco-kids' -- children who can tell you what is right and wrong but are woefully ignorant of the reasons why.... [Environmental education] preaches socially or politically correct lessons. [It] is unabashedly devoted to activism and politics, rather than knowledge and understanding.''
Many green texts urge students to become politically active and to join radical groups such as Greenpeace, Earth First!, Planned Parenthood, or Population Connection. The books also advocate government control of energy, on the premise that the private sector has neither the will nor the means to do the right thing.
Critics of environmental education say that mastering basic skills ought to be the prime objective for schoolchildren, and that learning about the environment, while an important part of the science curriculum, should not include a radical green agenda bereft of balance and sound scientific rules.
Adapted from "The Greening of the Classroom: Do Kids Learn Junk Environmentalism in Schools?" (written by Michael Chapman and published by Investor's Business Daily on September 29, 1998)