To accompany the recent post Educated Teachers wrote about the National Education Association’s politicization of Christmas, below are excerpts from an article published in the American Federation of Teachers’ (the other national teachers’ union) newsletter that encourage k-12 English teachers to use their classrooms to promote a political agenda around climate change.
We believe that a purely science-oriented approach to climate change can miss the social, historical, ethical, and human realities that are critical to the problem.
Fostering civic engagement can also shift the overall focus of English from positioning students as autonomous individuals or consumers set apart from the world to students as social participants whose ways of being and acting directly affect the local and global ecology.12 This shift involves redefining academic success based less on individual achievement and test scores and more on one’s social and collaborative relationships with others and how our actions can contribute to sustainability and environmental justice.
As teachers of English, we offer a specific perspective and a set of values for teaching about climate change. Our approach emerges from an understanding of the Anthropocene era in which we now live, when environmental, geological, and ecological systems are profoundly altered by human activity. Our beliefs are based in world citizenship, the rights and well-being of all, and the recognition of connections between the diverse members of the world family.
Adopting this climate change perspective involves:
- Foregrounding the climate crisis as the most important issue facing life on earth.
- Understanding the causes and effects of climate change locally and globally, as well as the efforts to deny them.
- Overcoming individualism and nationalism, and adopting a system-based, global perspective.
- Creating solidarity with the oppressed and exploited, addressing the unequal impacts of climate change, and striving for social justice.
- Envisioning and enacting transformational changes through individual and collective action, in which everyone is accountable for their actions and inactions.
Minnesota is one of only a handful of states where teachers who are union members pay dues to both national teachers’ unions. Less than a quarter of every dues dollar stays local to support collective bargaining services and other representational activities.