Arise patriots: Leave no child inside!

binocular_kids.jpgAlright, 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:

kid-fishing.jpg“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:

“Environmental education has a measurably positive impact on student academic achievement, as well as motivation, critical thinking, and interest in careers in science and math.

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):

smile.jpgRob Wittman’s Washington, D.C. Office:

1123 Longworth House Office Building,
District of Columbia 20515-4601
Phone: (202) 225-4261
Fax: (202) 225-4382

Yorktown Office:
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!

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
This entry was posted in Biodiversity, Biophilia, Education, Politics, Sustainability and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Arise patriots: Leave no child inside!

  1. some great ideas and point great post

  2. cris says:

    The decline of mass media and the rise of the blogosphere have blurred the distinction between the consumer and the producer. Unlike their parents, who grew up as recipients of television wisdom, today’s youth upload writings and videos, in addition to downloading them. Don’t mistake this as a new fad, following hoola-hoop, bell bottoms, slap bracelets and pokemon. This shift empowers all citizens to speak freely, truthfully and recklessly; and it demands that teachers expand their idea of “teaching for social justice.”

    Two ninth grade girls in my school took a picture of another ninth grade girl, posted it on the web, wrote “call me for a good time,” and posted the girl’s phone number as well. That night, this unsuspecting student received dozens of calls from men two and three times her age. On the face of it, this is nothing new. Adolescents are cruel and men are lecherous. Yet, the implications of this behavior are far graver than ever before. Who knows whether or not those men will be cyber stalkers, choose to find her home address, and pay her a visit? The dangers of blogging and uploading abound, from the publication of uncensored libel, to revealing the private information of others, to giving all forms of potential tomfoolery a public stage. None of this is news to anyone.

    What on earth does this have to do with teachers? Can they be held responsible for the rumors and practical jokes of their students outside the classroom? That’s a stretch.

    However, it does mean we need to place heightened emphasis on developing an ethical consciousness at an early age. Before the consequences of student mischief were inherently limited by rudimentary information distribution networks: passing notes by hand, graffiti scrawled on the wall of the bathroom stall, announcements at a school assembly, late night telephone gossip sessions. Now, students have the virtual publication power of professional journalists.

    From that perspective, we’re training journalists. Don’t we need to teach ethics, as well as academics? As teachers, we need to promote social justice by not just teaching respect and appreciation for the multiplicity of cultures, races, genders and socio-economic classes, but by using the classroom context to develop the students’ sense of right and wrong.

    I’ve attempted to do this by creating emotionally meaningful experiences. In one activity exploring segregation, I gave each student a playing card and told them that they weren’t allowed to look at the cards. Students had to put their respective playing cards on their foreheads and mingle with their peers, treating each other according to the value of their card on their foreheads. The student with the King card, for example, was treated like royalty, while the student with two on his forehead was ignored.

    One students responded, “That was mad wrong. Whites treated blacks like dirt for no reason.” Another replied, “It made no sense. Getting a two or a nine was random and then it was the biggest deal.” A more mature student countered, “It’s like the social groups in school. Jocks and pretty girls get treated like kings for no good reason. Then short and fat kids get picked on just because of the way they looked.”

    My students not only knew what segregation was, but they could feel how wrong the Jim Crow laws were. And, if they can draw connections from ethical lessons in class to their own lives, they might wield their keyboards, mice, and video cameras more responsibly.

  3. This is great , sadly so many children nowadays have adapted a more sedentary lifestyle , Video Games and Television are two of the most major contributors of this trend.

    And your right before the dawn of internet , console systems and cable tv , our childhood was filled with outdoor activities like playing in the sandbox , catching fireflies and going hiking was such a much anticipated event.

    Promoting these healthy habits will definitely be beneficial to our kids.

  4. I definitely agree with D.P Delellis, children nowadays are badly hooked up with the new trend, video games, television and online games which is very popular.

    Back in the old days, we were out there playing kids stuff, learning a lot from the outside. Now, children don’t go out that much because they’re already satisfied with watching shows on the television and/or playing online games on the internet.

    With this program, the good old ways of playing will be back. And this will definitely help our kids learn more than what they learn indoors.