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Environmental Education versus Environmental Activism


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Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence

"Things to think about...

As educators on environmental topics, we sometimes walk a fine line between education and advocacy - a line that we can cross without even being aware of it. Education involves giving students access to information, opinions, and interpretations so they can develop their own conclusions. This may require the presentation of information, data, or views with which the instructor does not agree or that the instructor would rather not acknowledge. Advocacy involves giving students access to information with the intent that students reach a specific conclusion or hold a particular opinion.

An educational curriculum must present different viewpoints, such as the pros and cons of forest fires. Different perspectives also need to be presented in a balanced way - one that does not bias the student toward any one perspective. It is important to understand that, depending on their personal interpretations of information, reasonable people can hold different but equally valid views. In addition, environmental issues affect people differently; some of the consequences of a decision or action might be invisible to someone who is not aware of or open to the opinions or experiences of others.

Although it is important to maintain balance in presentation, it is also important that educators be aware of the relevance, timeliness, and accuracy of the information they provide. An instructor looking at possible curriculum may sift through large amounts of information to determine the material's relevance and accuracy. Questions asked might include:

Is this information current?
How much of this is based on the writer's subjective opinion, rather than research or fact?
Is the writer trying to influence me with the choice of words used?
Are these primary sources of information, or did the writer dilute or edit someone else's work?

These questions can help indicate if and how the material should be used, what supplemental materials might be needed to help balance the presentation, and what extra tools or skills the students might need to understand or make sense of the information."

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Environmental Education versus Environmental Activism


Last updated: April 4, 2002


“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestor, we borrow it from our children”
Native American Proverb