Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where does climate fit in the high school curriculum? Part 3: Some thoughts on social studies.

For the last two Wednesdays, I've written about where teaching climate fits in the high school curriculum.  Two weeks ago, I specifically addressed science, but closed by noting that climate cuts across the curriculum.  Last week's post indulged a bit of fantasy about ways we might do something better than school.

When I started down this road, I'd not intended to do more than a couple of posts on the topic.  As I've written a bit about it, and thought a lot about it, too much comes to mind to crunch it down that much.

It's probably obvious that I can't be an expert in all high school curricula, but my convoluted past has included work with pre-service teachers in virtually all high school subjects and I once wrote chapter sections on standards for a book on curriculum theory, and that forced me to take a close look across disciplines.

So, I have some background on this stuff, but I still want you to tell me where I'm a loon.

A few ways to address climate change in social studies curricula

There are, of course more than a few ways to bring climate change to social studies curricula, but these examples should be illustrative of more general approaches.

Economic & Political Costs of Action and Inaction on Climate Change
Greg Craven's excellent (but cheesy, in a science teacher sort of way) book, What's the Worst that Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate is deserving of a full post.  I plan to do that next week or week after.  The book steps the reader through his decision matrix that compares the consequences of acting on climate change if predictions about climate change whether those predictions turn out to be true or to be false and considering the consequences of not acting, again whether the predictions turn out to be true or false.

His basic question is: What's the greater risk: The risk of taking action or the risk of not taking action?

Of course, I hope that societal and political decisions related to climate change are grounded in science, but it's undeniable that the action needs to come from governments, cultures, individuals and institutions. That's what social studies is all about, right?

The Industrial Revolution & Climate Change
If it weren't for the Industrial Revolution, would human induced climate change be a concern?   Would the Industrial Revolution have occurred without the new understandings of Earth science that came at that time?  Science of the time greatly improved extraction technologies for fuel and raw materials to build cities and economies that were fundamentally different than those that came before.  The actions of the Industrial Revolution were both grounded in Earth science and have led to important changes in the way the Earth systems operate.  The Industrial Revolution was, among other things, the kick off of a huge scaling up of movement of carbon from within the Earth's solid surface to the atmosphere.

Geography, Climate, Climate Change, and Culture
I think I'll just leave you with the header here and let your mind fill in the text.  And think of more examples of ways to connect climate to social studies curricula.  I know you're smart enough.

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