Not counting my last phenology post, this will make my fourth post in a row with no photos. Whaaa? Well, between the cold, damp, windy weather this week and the mountains of grad school work to slog through, I just haven’t been outside as much as usual. I’m giving myself a homework assignment to go for a ramble in the woods tomorrow afternoon, but in the meantime let me ruminate on an interesting debate that came up in my class on “environmental education theory and practice.”
We’ve talked a couple times now in that class about the idea that environmental educators wear “two hats” – our education hat, and our advocacy hat – and we have to be careful not to get them mixed up. What this means is that when teaching about environmental issues you have to be careful to present multiple viewpoints rather than advocating one specific way of seeing things to your students. Fine. But at the same time we’re being told that one of the core goals of environmental education is to empower people to practice more environmentally responsible behavior and take action to protect the environment.
Okay, so we can’t be advocates but we want to teach other people to be. Hmm.
I think there is a middle ground here that makes sense – I definitely believe in presenting multiple viewpoints on a controversial issue, and a teacher who requires her students to agree with her and to, say, write letters to a legislator supporting her position is frankly a bad teacher. But at the same time, you do your students a disservice by pretending to be neutral on an issue when you’re not. No one is really objective or neutral, we all have our biases, and it’s surely better to acknowledge them. Sometimes there is a right and a wrong side of an issue, damn it! As the very wise Douglas Adams once said, “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.”
I guess I just feel that the “two hats” concept is setting up a false dichotomy that’s not helpful in navigating this fine line. Environmental educators ARE environmental advocates. If we weren’t passionate about inspiring people to love and protect the environment, we wouldn’t have gotten into this field in the first place. Does anyone else have a take on this?