Congress Supports EPA’s Biased and Politicized Environmental Education: Sanera Op-Ed

Published in various regional papers

Published in various regional papers

August 2000


Do you know that your children are being taught how to write their congressman and hold a press conference in support radical environmental policies? Would you be surprised that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and, perhaps, your congressman are behind this political manipulation of your children?


Congress is currently considering extending the EPA’s authority to misinform and politicize children on environmental issues. Currently, the EPA provides financial support to educational programs that distort scientific evidence on important environmental issues (such as global warming, acid rain, air and water pollution) and then manipulate kids to become political activists who support misguided environmental policies.


Patricia Poore, who reviewed educational materials for an environmental magazine, concludes that the environmental curriculum contains “oversimplification and myth, has little historical perspective, is politically oriented and is strongly weighted toward a traditional environmentalist viewpoint, i.e. emphasizing limits to growth, distrust of technology, misinformation concerning waste management, and gloomy (if not doomsday) scenarios.”


What is worse, once students receive a large dose of biased environmental information, they are often taught sophisticated political action skills (how to write letters to Congress, how to lobby, how to hold press conferences, etc.). For example on Earth Day 1998, the Sierra Club took fourth-grade students to downtown Denver where they were given a “lesson” on endangered species. Then the teacher and some of the students mounted a podium before a crowd of reporters to denounce the environmental voting record of US Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.


Mike Weilbacher, a prominent environmental educator, notes that many environmental activists “see children as tools, or weapons in the environmental war to reach adult decision-makers.” Weilbacher goes on to call this political manipulation of students “obscene.” Unfortunately, the EPA is not correcting these problems but supporting them.


Why is the EPA in the business of teaching children in the first place? It is an agency which has a stake in the outcome of environmental policy debates in Congress. It would seem only common sense that its policy role and its education role are in serious conflict.


Does anyone truly expect that the EPA can support an objective, and unbiased educational program which examines both the strengths and weaknesses of the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air or Water Acts or the Superfund program? Does anyone doubt that the intent of this political action training is to create politically skilled activists who, on the whole, support the environmental policies of the EPA?


It is time for Congress to consider an independent review of the EPA’s stewardship over environmental education, a review conducted by prominent scientists and economists who will take an objective look at the content of environmental education materials.


Parents need to know that their children are receiving the highest quality education about the environment. When controversial environmental issues are taught, our children must receive a diversity of scientific and economic viewpoints so they can critically think about those issues and arrive at their own conclusions. In addition, parents be reassured that their children are not being politicized by environmental activists or any special interest group. Propagandizing and politicizing of children is not education; it is educational child abuse and must not be tolerated, let alone encouraged and funded, by the federal government.


Dr. Michael Sanera ([email protected]) is Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Environmental Education Research, a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. For seventeen years, Dr. Sanera taught at Northern Arizona University.