I researched when the EPA became not only a regulatory agency, but when it started developing curriculum for schools. I found this site explaining the agency's role in education through yet another group, The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF):
Chartered by Congress in 1990 to advance environmental knowledge and action.
The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 established the National Environmental Education Foundation as a complementary organization to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extending its ability to foster environmental literacy in all segments of the American public as well as leveraging private funds that EPA, as a federal agency, could not access.
In the almost two decades since then, the annual appropriation we receive from the EPA’s Office of Environmental Education has enabled us to tap millions more in private and other governmental funding. The strong relationship we’ve built with the EPA has allowed us to multiply our resources and deliver innovative education programs which encourage environmentally responsible behavior.
I think I got the answer to how/when the EPA became involved in education; now I ask the question, who is partnering with this foundation that our tax dollars support? What private funding can this agency access that the EPA cannot? There are numerous organizations listed on the site who partner with the NEEF, many that are familiar; the NEA, Toyota, National Arbor Day Society, American Academy of Pediatricians. Some may not be so familiar, and one in particular caught my curiosity; World Watch Institute.
On the site under the subheading "Transforming Cultures", I found these two paragraphs interesting:
Worldwatch Institute's Transforming Cultures project turns a critical eye to how we can shift today's consumer cultures toward cultures of sustainability. The key to this transformation will lie in harnessing institutions that play a central role in shaping society—such as the media, educational services, business, governments, traditions, and social movements—to instill this new cultural orientation.
The project also seeks to bring women into educational, economic, political and health equality with men. This will require the erosion of cultural norms that promote early and frequent childbearing and expanding women's capacity to choose when to bear children. Studies show that such advances slow and eventually end population growth, allowing for more sustainable development worldwide.
Gee. That sounds alot like Cass Sunstein's theory in "Nudge" doesn't it? Missouri Education Chris Nicastro based her proposal to Race to the Top on this theory; perhaps she is employing the current theory present throughout all the government entities; schools, the EPA, the Department of Education and the State Department. Here's an excerpt from the book's review:
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.
Thaler and Sunstein invite us to enter an alternative world, one that takes our humanness as a given. They show that by knowing how people think, we can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society. Using colorful examples from the most important aspects of life, Thaler and Sunstein demonstrate how thoughtful “choice architecture” can be established to nudge us in beneficial directions without restricting freedom of choice.
I have a few questions:
- Who is designing these choice environments for us to make it easier us to choose what is best for us? The EPA? The Department of Education? World Watch Institute?
- Is there an oxymoron in the "Nudge" description and the reality of what educational "transformation" really means? "Nudging" theoretically doesn't restrict our freedom of choice. Two points on this contention: One, Federal mandates in education take away choice. Two, read this sentence from World Watch again: The project also seeks to bring women into educational, economic, political and health equality with men. This will require the erosion of cultural norms that promote early and frequent childbearing and expanding women's capacity to choose when to bear children. World Watch can couch it in any language it chooses, however, it is very clear the intent is to eliminate cultural norms and insert its ideas and rules on how life is to be lived. The Institute has just turned it around by "expanding women's capacity to choose". No. The Institute wants to take away a woman's right to bear children whenever she chooses by "transforming the culture".
- What does "harnessing institutions" mean? Read this paragraph again: Worldwatch Institute's Transforming Cultures project turns a critical eye to how we can shift today's consumer cultures toward cultures of sustainability. The key to this transformation will lie in harnessing institutions that play a central role in shaping society—such as the media, educational services, business, governments, traditions, and social movements—to instill this new cultural orientation. This doesn't sound like being "nudged in a beneficial direction" to me, it sounds like forced indoctrination of the media, schools, businesses, etc. Instilling new cultural orientation means controlling the message. This was almost successful until a whistle blower cast doubt on the veracity of the scientific data used in climate change data. Could this be why those opposed to Al Gore's theories of climate change are met with such hatred? Transformation of cultural traditions and social movements are included as well. Is this the reason on why conservative social family or religious structures are ridiculed?
I am suspect when these governmental agencies become so entwined in our lives and especially in the lives of our schoolchildren. I am also concerned about the partnership of outside agencies such as World Watch Institute with the EPA and NEEF. When common core standards are established (the harnessing and the nudging of information which has a distinct political agenda), what are you as a parent going to do? What choice do you have?
Oh, but I forgot...no worries! Remember as Cass Sunstein tells us,
Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.
According to the theory and the actions of these governmental agencies, they just have to nudge us to live our lives in the way they deem beneficial to society and the world. We must nudge them back and tell them no. These are our children and our schools and our decisions.