Alright, all you people who have been fondly recalling your idyllic childhoods lying in old fields, catching lightning bugs, plunging into the swimming hole, and chucking rotten apples at each other in the old orchard, and lamenting that kids nowadays don’t understand all that (“Not like when I was a lad, b’God!”):
Uncle Sam wants you!
. . . to get American kids off their softening butts and push them affectionately but firmly into the bright light of day. And, with your permission, he is willing to give them a little boost in that direction, not only to get back in the swing of playing outside, though that is surely part of it, but equally importantly to understand what is going on out there. Since most kids today don’t have the leisure nor the inclination to learn the rudiments of ecology informally through daily experience, they need a pointer in that direction. And they are surely going to need that ecological literacy as they reach voting age and face some of the most momentous decisions about the future of planet earth yet. As Rep. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) put it, “The next generation is the one that’s going to make or break us as a planet.”
Here’s where you get the chance to put your money where your mouth has been. Your elected representatives are about to make some concrete decisions that will determine whether kids get that chance. Specifically, the House of Representatives is preparing to vote in September on the “No Child Left Indoors Act” (see here for a summary, and here for the full text of the bill) — and they need to hear from you very soon. Here’s the dope, courtesy of the ever vigilant Ecological Society of America:
“On June 18th, the House Committee on Education and Labor passed the No Child Left Indoor Act (NCLI) by a 37-8 bipartisan vote. The legislation would support local and statewide efforts to enhance environmental education by:
Establishing a grant program to help the field of environmental education become more effective and widely practiced.
Providing capacity building grants to educational agencies in states with peer-reviewed environmental literacy plans, and providing states with funding to develop these plans.
Broadening the already successful Environmental Education and Training Program to provide teachers with enhanced professional development and training in environmental education, which they can then integrate into the curriculum.
Extending the full National Environmental Education Act authorization, including Environmental Education and Training, at $14 million through fiscal year 2009.”
Here are some points worth making, again courtesy of the ESA:
Regular education “in the field” gets kids outside, and thus contributes to healthy lifestyles through outdoor exercise and recreation.
Environmental education provides critical tools for a 21st Century workforce; students who understand complex environmental issues can make informed decisions in their own lives and find solutions for environmental challenges facing the nation. Business leaders also increasingly believe that an environmentally literate workforce is critical to their long-term success.
Hands-on environmental education is a solution to the growing trend of “nature deficit disorder”—children today spend half as much time outside as kids did just 20 years ago and, on average, spend over six hours every day plugged into electronic media.”
By all accounts most Congresspeople actually listen to their constituents, and it takes relatively little effort to reach them. Here is your chance to exercise democracy, and get a karmic boost therefrom. If you live in my neck o’ the woods, in Virginia’s 1st district, you can contact our Rep. Rob Wittman as follows (if you live elsewhere, you can find your Congressperson’s contact info here):
Rob Wittman’s Washington, D.C. Office:
1123 Longworth House Office Building,
District of Columbia 20515-4601
Phone: (202) 225-4261
Fax: (202) 225-4382
4904-B George Washington Memorial Hwy.
Yorktown, Virginia 23692
Phone: (757) 874-6687
Fax: (757) 874-7164
Give your Congressman a ring! Let freedom ring!