#166 Katie Worth, Author of Miseducation: How Climate Change is Taught in America

Katie Worth is an investigative journalist who writes about science, politics, and their myriad intersections. She joined FRONTLINE in 2015 as the inaugural FRONTLINE-Columbia Tow Journalism Fellow, and in 2018 was selected as an O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. She has worked on several FRONTLINE’S enterprise reporting projects and co-produced the cinematic interactive story “The Last Generation,” which won an Emmy for “Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary.” Her work has appeared in Scientific American, National Geographic, Slate, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016.

Worth grew up in Chico, California, just a few miles from Paradise, site of one of the worst of the massive fires that, because of climate change, are currently devastating the American West. During her reporting for Miseducation, she returned to her old middle school to find that climate change is being taught there as the subject of an unresolved scientific dispute, not a proven reality.

About Miseducation: How Climate Change is Taught in America

Classrooms have emerged as a battleground in the American political war over climate change because what kids learn about it now will directly impact the speed and ambition of action taken for decades to come. Yet one-third of young adults believe that climate change is not man-made. Why are millions of American children learning mixed or false messages about the phenomenon that will dictate their future? Who has tried to influence what children learn, and how successful have they been?

In Miseducation, Worth connects the dots between fossil fuel lobbyists, flaccid textbook companies, thinktanks, and the American political machine to expose a tangled web of moneyed interests and entrenched ideology. Each have played a role in the widespread, calamitous, and in some cases, intentional miseducation of American children. 

Across the country, students are taught to debate “both sides” of the global emergency even though the scientific community is in consensus. Many of the nation’s most popular textbooks introduce them to alternate theories for which there is no evidence. And the scene in each class plays out differently since there is no national curriculum. Which is to say, it’s impossible to definitively describe what kids are learning about recent climate change.

But there’s a lot that can be known. To that end, Worth reviewed scores of textbooks, built a fifty-state database, and traveled to more than a dozen communities to talk to kids about what they have learned about the environmental crisis. The picture that emerged is clear: that the classroom is not an ideologically neutral place when it comes to climate. Some states do not want children to learn the facts.

What does a quality classroom education about the climate crisis look like then? Science educators agree that students should enter the adult world knowing the “big five facts” about the crisis: Scientists agree. It’s real. It’s us. It’s bad. There’s hope.

No matter where they live, today’s kids will bear witness to human-caused climate catastrophes in their communities. With damning evidence based on original investigative reporting, Miseducation reveals that in much of the country, children learn that climate change may or may not actually be happening—even when alarming evidence that it is can be found in their own backyards.

Listen & Subscribe

▶️ Apple podcasts: https://apple.co/3nToAoN

▶️ Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3u28Ocu

▶️ Anchor: https://bit.ly/2Yh7MKT

Bigger Than Us #166

This transcript has been lightly edited.

Host Raj Daniels 00:45

Katie, how are you doing today?

Katie Worth 01:38

I’m doing great. And I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Host Raj Daniels 01:41

Katie, I’m super excited for this conversation. We were talking offline about my children and education. But your upcoming book, Miseducation — very excited to dig into it. But before we do, quick question for you. How did you become fluent in Spanish?

Katie Worth 02:02

My cousin lives in Santiago de Chile. And I wound up living there for three years with him and his kids, who are Chilean. So I got pretty good at it. At that point. How did you know that I’m fluent in Spanish?

Host Raj Daniels 02:20

One of my jobs is to research my guests. And how was life in Chile? Well, can you put us in a timeframe? When was this?

Katie Worth 02:30

I lived there from 2011 to 2014, I think, and it was great. It’s such a beautiful country. It’s all mountains and ocean, and the Andes are just breathtaking. And Santiago is actually right up against the Andes. And I had a 16th floor apartment. So I would just look out every morning and see the Andes. Sometimes I couldn’t see them because of the smog. But most of the time I could see them, and I really love it. encourage anybody to go visit once the pandemic is over.

Host Raj Daniels 03:07

Did you do any reporting on Chile while you were there?

Katie Worth 03:10

Yeah, I did. That’s when I kind of got into science reporting. So I wrote several stories for Scientific American and National Geographic about the science that was happening in South America that may not get much attention in English-language press. But Chile is actually a really big deal in the astronomy world because northern Chile — the Atacama desert — has some of the clearest skies in the world. And so there are several major telescopes there. And so I kind of got into astronomy.

Host Raj Daniels 03:48

So astronomy reporting. Can you give me examples of articles you wrote regarding astronomy?

Katie Worth 03:53

Sure. The largest Radio Telescope Array in the world is called ALMA. And it was just coming online in the Atacama Desert when I was there. And so I got to go visit that as it was opening, and I wrote a story about that. I spent several days up in the Andes with a team that was building a robot that could be landed in the lake on Saturn’s moon of Titan. And then it could float in the lake and collect information about the lake. There are a lot of differences between a lake on earth and a lake on Titan, the main one being that the lake on Titan isn’t made of water. So the lakes on Titan are made of liquid ethane and methane. So there’s not an exact equivalent on Earth, but this team decided, for various reasons, that there was a lake in Chile that could be a fair enough equivalent to test the robot in?

Host Raj Daniels 05:05

Do you know if they ever got that robot launched?

Katie Worth 05:08

They have not yet, but Titan is a place that astronomers are very interested in visiting and think that there could potentially be life, or could have been life at some point. So I wouldn’t be surprised if, one day, we do send a lake lander to Titan.

Host Raj Daniels 05:29

Isn’t it amazing to think there might have been life out there?

Katie Worth 05:32

It is. And there may be still. Current. It’s a big universe.

Host Raj Daniels 05:40

So I’ll go on record and say that I firmly believe there’s life out there somewhere. I just can’t believe that it’s only Earth.

Katie Worth 05:49

Yeah, I agree with you.

Host Raj Daniels 05:50

So I’m gonna switch gears here. I mentioned the book earlier. Miss education. Can you give the audience an overview of the book and why you wrote it?

Katie Worth 05:59

Yeah, absolutely. So the book is basically about what American kids learn about climate change in school, and who has influenced that education. And — spoiler alert — the fossil fuel industry has been pretty involved in shaping what our education about climate change is. And so I looked at it from a whole bunch of angles. And I read through dozens of science textbooks and social studies textbooks to try and figure out what textbooks are saying about climate change. I visited more than a dozen classrooms all over the country. I talked to teachers, I talked to people in the fossil fuel industry, I visited a class that had a lobbyist giving a PowerPoint presentation from the fossil fuel industry to the seventh graders. So I kind of looked at it from a whole bunch of angles and concluded that there are a lot of problems.

Host Raj Daniels 07:09

Before we get into the details about the book, writing a book is not easy. What inspired you to write a book, and this book in particular?

Katie Worth 07:17

It’s not easy. I would not recommend it to anyone who doesn’t feel absolutely compelled to do so. Tthis story wasn’t initially going to be a book. I worked for the investigative series Frontline PBS for several years. And the executive producer there was very interested in this question of what kids learn about climate change. And so it was going to be a film for a while, it was going to be a magazine article, it was going to be an interactive, it was going to be a podcast. But this the reporting just kept getting broader, deeper, and more all encompassing. Ultimately, it seemed like it could merit a book, and that might be the best way to tell the story.

Host Raj Daniels 08:09

What’s your hope for the book? What’s your goal for the book?

Katie Worth 08:13

I’d like for it to have an impact. And I’d like for people to read it and be surprised and start asking questions about what’s happening in their kids schools and in their state legislature. There’s a way that this is niche. Climate education. But there’s another way that it’s extremely topical, like these kids. Kids are the people with the most at stake in the climate crisis. They have been born into a century that will be defined by this crisis. And they deserve to understand the world that they’re entering in. They also are needed to help create solutions. They should be taught about this. If there can be collective action taken to improve what kids learn in school and how prepared kids are to become decision-making adults, I think it could be really impactful.

Host Raj Daniels 09:20

Now, you mentioned the lobbyist earlier, and you said being surprised. What were some of the surprising things that you uncovered in your research while writing this book?

Katie Worth 09:30

There were a number of things that surprised me. I was sitting in this classroom in Arkansas. It was a seventh-grade science classroom, and the teacher had arranged for a visitor that day. In walked this lobbyist for Arkansas’s oil and gas lobby. And she had a whole PowerPoint presentation that she spent the whole hour giving to these students about the benefits of fossil fuels and how useful they’ve been to humanity. Describing a little bit about the geology and legitimate science questions, the technology that’s used to take fossil fuels out of the ground under their feet. 

Then there was a whole section that was in defense of the fossil fuel industry. And she didn’t talk directly about climate change in the sense that she didn’t define it. She just said, “Well, the problem with fossil fuels is greenhouse emissions.” She didn’t define what that was. And then she said, “But every single fuel has a problem. If you use solar, what happens if it’s cloudy? There’s no power. If you use wind, maybe birds will be killed. So every form of energy is going to have a problem. Fossil fuels are essential for human well-being. Do you want humans to thrive? Or do you just want everything to be pristine, and for humans to pay the price?” 

Kids listening to it were — it was reasonable with that information to think, “Oh, yeah, well, sure. Maybe there’s a problem, but what are we going to do about it? It’s better for humans to thrive.” Which is, of course, a totally false narrative. Not dealing with the crisis won’t lead to human thriving. It’s gonna lead to a lot of human suffering. 

It was this false equivalence and this narrative that the fossil fuel industry has pushed for a long time, and it was being fed to seventh graders who didn’t know to question it, and the teacher was deferential. The only questions they had were how much they would get paid if they worked for the fossil fuel industry. And they were impressed with the figure that she gave them. So, you know, it wasn’t surprising to me that the fossil fuel industry is involved with education. They have a long history of pushing their messages to children, but I hadn’t seen it play out in a classroom quite that vividly. This is a person — that’s her job. She goes classroom to classroom, all over Arkansas, giving this presentation to third graders, fifth graders, seventh graders, high schoolers. Every single day.

Host Raj Daniels 12:32

That really is surprising. Do you know if individuals involved in the climate change movement get the same opportunity within classrooms?

Katie Worth 12:40

I didn’t come across anything like that. Of course, an individual teacher might have a guest who is thoughtful about the crisis, or who is a climate educator, but there’s not the same kind of concerted effort in the environmental space. There are a few cases. There’s one group, I think it’s called the Alliance for Climate Education, that does school assemblies. So they’ll go to your school and do a whole performance that teaches kids the basics about climate change and gets them involved. So there are a few programs like that, but it’s not as well-funded or as proliferated as the fossil fuel campaign.

Host Raj Daniels 13:31

What did you come across as far as curriculum and children learning about climate change in schools?

Katie Worth 13:38

Well, it varies a lot. America has 3 million teachers educating 50 million children enrolled in 100,000 public schools. There’s no federal curriculum. Those kids are educated quite differently, depending on what school they’re in, what state they’re in. And so what I found was a real diversity of curricula. The main lever of control that a state has over education is something called educational standards. 

And before the audience totally falls asleep when I mention educational standards, they’re really powerful. It’s basically a state’s expectation of what a kid is going to learn in each grade and each class. It might be like, in fourth-grade math, they’re going to learn long division. Some states have climate change in their science standards and their social studies standards. So kids in that state, no matter who their teachers are, gonna learn at least something about it. Or they’re supposed to if the teachers are following the standards. But in other cases, there’s no mention of the phenomenon and the standards. And in some cases, there is mention of it, but it’s doubtful. It’s asking kids to debate whether or not climate change is happening, if it’s real, which is something that of course scientists don’t debate. But we’re asking children to debate.

Host Raj Daniels 15:22

How do you choose the schools you visited?

Katie Worth 15:26

This whole project got started back in, it must have been 2017. I had been a science reporter for a long time, and I specifically focused on the intersection of science and politics. But I had spent my whole career avoiding writing about climate change, because it felt — every time I read about the issue, I just wound up feeling this despair and helplessness and powerlessness. Climate change would come across my feed, and I’d scroll right past, or there’d be a headline about polar bears on an ice floe, and I’d just turn the page of the newspaper. I didn’t want to know about it because it made me feel so despairing. 

And then, in 2017, Frontline got a grant to tell a story about climate change. It could be anywhere in the world. We had money to go anywhere in the world and tell any story, but it had to be about climate change. That was when I had to come to grips with this crisis and start taking it seriously in my writing. We looked at stories everywhere, all across the country, and we wound up doing a story that was in the Marshall Islands. And we chose the Marshall Islands, because we were doing a film project, and we wanted to go somewhere where the crisis wasn’t like futuristic, it wasn’t a hypothetical, where you could see the effects already on film. Every year, there are more and more places like that. But the effects in these little Pacific nations are very famous, and they’re undeniable. And we decided to focus on kids because kids have the most at stake. And so we went around, and we talked to dozens of kids in the Marshall Islands. And I was stunned at how well-versed and how fluent they were in talking about climate change. Far more than most adults that I know here. And it’s because they’re learning about it in school. 

We talked to one kid who was learning about it at age six, and then at age seven, and then in third grade and fourth grade, too. The adults in his life were talking about it, and it was central to his education. His parents were thinking about moving to the US, to Oklahoma, partly to make sure that he could get a good education. And so I started wondering, “Okay, well, if he moves to Oklahoma, what will he learn about climate change?” So I went to Oklahoma. And that was sort of like the genesis of the reporting question that undergirds this book. 

So I went to Oklahoma, I went to Arkansas, which also has a very large Marshallese community. I went to Idaho because there was a big conflict that went down over the course of many years about whether the crisis should be mentioned in science standards. And then I went to California, specifically to my hometown, which is Chico, California, only about 14 miles from Paradise, California, which, if you will recall, burned down in the 2018 campfire. So Chico has been flooded with these refugees. So I visited all these schools in my hometown to observe what, what they were learning about climate change as well. 

So that’s a really long-winded answer to your question. I was hoping to survey the nation at large and also find interesting and really intimate stories about this in the classroom. So that you could zoom in on a particular kid or a particular teacher and tell the story through their eyes.

Host Raj Daniels 19:45

It’s very interesting. You mentioned the word refugees — especially in the current environment we’re in, there’s a lot of talk right now about refugees coming in from Afghanistan and other countries. And just a couple of days ago, after Ida hit New Orleans, I was reading that, in one particular area, 80% of the people there are thinking of not rebuilding and moving. I think very often when we think about refugees, political refugees within countries, we don’t realize it could be city to city or state to state.

Katie Worth 20:16

Yeah, it really could. And that happened to my hometown. So all of a sudden, there were 50,000 homeless people, people whose homes had burned down, who needed to live somewhere else in the county. So Chico absorbed a huge number them, other towns in the county absorbed — some people went to LA or all over the country, but they could no longer be in their home because it had burned down. And some people are rebuilding, but that takes a long time. It’s really roiled the local politics and Chico. Tt’s completely changed the nature of the city and the feel of the city, to have its population overnight, increased by 50%.

Host Raj Daniels 21:08

I think towards the end of your book, you have a story about a young boy whose family had to escape who had been learning about climate change in school. Is that correct?

Katie Worth 21:16

Yeah. When I was in Chico, I wound up spending quite a bit of time in this one school. It was Paradise Intermediate School, which had been forced to move from its location in Paradise to some real estate in Chico. And the only real estate they could find was a shuttered hardware store. It was an OSH — it’s not a huge chain, so most people won’t know what an OSH is. It’s sort of like a Lowe’s or a Home Depot, and it had closed the year before, and nobody had moved in. So they put the school in this big box hardware store. And the classes would be in the aisles. 

The class that I was in, the seventh-grade science class, was in the light fixture aisle, and they made it work. It was really loud. They would play freeze tag where the garden center was. It was just very surreal. They would do lunch at the checkout counters. It was just really surreal, and a little bit apocalyptic-feeling. This one teacher there, Mr. Kessler, was doing a unit on climate change. I, of course, was really curious to hear what he was teaching that about that subject to children whose homes had burned down in a wildfire, which are far more frequent than they ever were because of the crisis. I went and visited the store and spent a couple weeks observing the class, and one of the kids — he wasn’t the only one — was hearing at home that the climate change was a hoax. And he was spending his day in science class looking at NASA data, NOAA data, temperature records, and looking at evidence and drawing conclusions about what is happening to the planet’s climate. 

And so he, at one point, raised his hand and asked Mr. Kessler, “No disrespect, but my parents say that this isn’t true.” And Mr. Kessler kind of had to navigate that and figure out, how to present the truth to this kid who was getting really mixed messages about a very fundamental fact of his life.

Host Raj Daniels 23:55

Speaking of mixed messages, and the young man being told it’s a hoax. How did you see teachers handling pushback or resistance from kids? They go home, they talk to their parents, the parents say, “No, it doesn’t exist,” or “it’s not real,” etc. And then they go to school, and convey that to the teachers. How did you see teachers handling messages like that?

Katie Worth 24:17

Well, actually, Mr. Kessler handled it beautifully. So I’m just going to tell you how he handled it. The student said, “I don’t know who to believe. My parents told me not to argue with the teacher, but I want to know.” And Mr. Kessler said, “Yeah, it must be hard to be getting these mixed messages, and that’s challenging. It’s respectful of your parents to say not to argue with the teacher, but it’s also okay to bring up different views in my classroom. If scientists didn’t argue, we wouldn’t get to the truth.” And he said, “My job is to give you evidence. It’s not to tell you what to believe. I’m just providing you with the very best evidence I can so that you can take a look at it and come to your own conclusion. It’s not to indoctrinate you. Pay attention to the patterns you’re seeing and pay attention to this data that you trust. Find trustworthy data and figure out what you think.” 

So I think that that was a really beautiful way to handle it, where he sidestepped any conflict with the parents, but just told him to trust himself. To keep investigating. That science is investigation and evidence and looking for answers, and that he can do that, aside from what any adult in his life is telling him.

Host Raj Daniels 26:01

Sounds like the teacher handled it very well.

Katie Worth 26:03

Yes, I agree.

Host Raj Daniels 26:04

You mentioned Oklahoma and Arkansas, both are very heavy in fossil fuels. Did you come across any children that perhaps felt — I don’t know if protective is the right word, but their parents may have been employed by fossil fuel companies, and the kids were conflicted because of that reason?

Katie Worth 26:19

Yeah, I did. The kid that I’m thinking of most clearly is a kid that I met in Idaho, which is not a big fossil fuel state. It has a little bit, but not too much. But we were talking and he lived with his grandparents. And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, climate change is totally a hoax.” 

I’m like, “Why do you think that?” And he’s like, “Well, because my grandparents said that. They said it many times.” So I said, “Well, do you think that it’s possible that your grandparents are wrong?” And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, definitely.” 

I was like, “Well, does that not give you something to think about?” And he’s like, “Oh, no, I’m just on the side of my grandparents. It doesn’t really matter if they’re right or wrong.” 

That encapsulates this: our kids trust us. Parents are the most important guardians, are the most important people, in the lives of these kids. And so, if a kid is getting a really strong message that this is what you need to believe. He was willing to admit that it could be wrong, but to him the most important thing was loyalty to his family and their belief system. And, you know, I think that that happens with kids of the fossil fuel industry. There are lots of people in the fossil fuel industry that absolutely believe in climate change. 

But you know, for those that don’t, their kids are totally going to be defensive of them and their way of life and not receptive to the idea that the fossil fuel industry has caused a major crisis in the world, if that’s what their beloved family member does to support the family.

Host Raj Daniels 28:11

Do you have any examples of going in reverse, where a kid might hear about climate change in school and go home, be able to convince their parents that it’s real?

Katie Worth 28:19

Yeah. Another kid that I met in Chico, he went home and talked to his parents who were on the fence about it. But then when I talked to the parents, they’re like, “Yeah, I’m glad that he’s learning about this in school. And maybe we need to learn a little bit more too.” They were very neutral about it. But they were conservative politically. So they were kind of following the dominant narrative of the Republican Party, which is to deny or dismiss the crisis, but they were open to some feedback. They weren’t so entrenched that they refused to hear it.

Host Raj Daniels 29:02

That’s good to hear. Now, you’re on this journey for quite a while. What lessons did you learn about yourself on your journey?

Katie Worth 29:09

Well, one thing that I learned was that — I’d spent all that time avoiding writing about climate change, or thinking about it, as best as I could. And that it was empowering, of course, to tell a story, to not avoid it. That’s not a surprise. Avoiding something doesn’t make it go away or make it less scary. Taking action doesn’t make it go away, either, but it feels a lot less powerless. So confronting it and dealing with it. That was important for me to remember. I think that I learned that I don’t like writing books. 

So I’m glad I wrote this one, but I’m not sure I ever want to write another one. I learned reporting is always a lesson in listening. Really, really listening and paying attention. That’s one of the best parts of being a reporter, is getting entrusted with people stories. And I am learning from them. And it’s not me figuring out what the narrative is and finding stories that fit it, but going in with an open mind and trying to figure out what’s happening. And I love that learning part of the reporting process.

Katie Worth 29:12

I do too. And I was listening to your story. And you mentioned that this journey started around 2017, if I’m not mistaken. Yeah. And you said something about the intersection of science and politics. And I think the last, I’m gonna say a year and a half, has been an overindulgence or an amplification of the intersection of science and politics.

Katie Worth 31:04

Mm. Yes.

Host Raj Daniels 31:07

We’re in the middle of it right now, I still feel. And I don’t know where it’s going to end up or when we’re going to start realizing that, yes, while some scientists do have an agenda, the majority of them are trying to do good work, and just publish good work and get good evidence out there for any situation that we’re in.

Katie Worth 31:26

It’s really fascinating how science has become political, because it just wasn’t always that way. Like I did some research about how this fit into the larger picture of science and belief in science, trust in science. There were plenty of times in our country’s history where people of all parties, all religions, and all ages had about the same trust in science. 

If you just look at the figure of what percentage of people trust science today versus 40 years ago, that number is actually the same. But then if you dig into that a little bit, then you see that people on the Democratic Party trust science much more than they did 40 years ago, and people on the Republican Party tend to trust science much less than 40 years ago. And there’s a religious divide, there’s a race divide. Things used to be more or less — your feeling about science and your trust in science was independent of your politics and your demographic. It had more to do with your knowledge about it and your trust in authority and things like that. 

Now, it’s very linked to your demographics and your political perspective. It’s just really fascinating. I don’t know the answer to how we get back to a world where science is more broadly trusted.

Host Raj Daniels 33:02

It’s an interesting observation. I would like to add that I think the Internet has absolutely added to that. Because when we were growing up, I was telling my children recently that if I wanted to find out anything, it’d have to be in a book somewhere, some kind of encyclopedia or whatever that might be. And I think access to both information and misinformation is so easy to get nowadays, that — you’ve heard the joke about the Google doctor, right? Everyone’s a doctor. And everyone’s a Google scientist, right? I’ve read the headlines, I read about it for 20 minutes. I’m an expert now. I think access to so much information is just overwhelming. And people can portray themselves as experts or knowledgeable just by doing very cursory research or even reading.

Katie Worth 33:47

Yeah. And it’s also the confirmation bias. We live in a world where you have access to to information and misinformation, and you just absorb the information that confirms what you already believe and reject information that doesn’t conform to that. And you’re absolutely right. There’s so much information and misinformation that you can confirm anything that you want to believe.

Host Raj Daniels 34:24

The good, old-fashioned echo chamber. So let’s move into the future. Optimist, pessimist. What do you think the future holds for the education of climate change?

Katie Worth 34:34

Well, the good news for climate education and the bad news for the world is that climate change is getting to be less and less deniable. Every day. As it’s moved out of this kind of futuristic hypothetical world to one that’s affecting us all over the country, every year, the misinformation becomes less powerful. And so at some point, it’s not going to be a question of whether you believe it or not, if you trust the science or not. It’s finally going to get to an area of like, “Well, what do we do about it, if anything,” which is a more debatable question than whether or not it’s happening. 

At that point, there won’t be this attempt to downplay it or erase it from kids’ education, and kids are observant. They’re going to be asking questions themselves, and the more questions they asked to their science teachers, their social studies teachers, the more those teachers are going to — whatever the curriculum says, they’re going to teach it to their kids. Kids in the future will learn more about this simply because it’s going to be this undeniable fact of their life. So I think that’s more pessimistic. 

But, you know, there’s also real evidence — there’s some places that, with collective action, they’re pushing back against attempts to minimize the climate crisis in schools. In Idaho, there were attempts to remove climate change from the academic standards in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. But the standards are there now. Climate educators, science teachers, parents, students, all showed up to those hearings, and insisted that climate change belonged in the science standards, and they won. They’re still fighting. There’s actually another fight this year, but they’re in the standard. Collective action works.

Host Raj Daniels 36:56

That’s really good to hear. Again, staying in the future here, if you could — and I know, each state has different curricula — but if you could have the ear of the Secretary of Education, or leaders in education, what kind of advice, if any, would you give them about teaching climate change in schools?

Katie Worth 37:23

The idea of climate change, and what people need to know about climate change has been reduced to these 10 words, basically: it’s real, us, bad; scientists agree about it; there’s hope. Those five points, there’s a scientific consensus. It’s happening, we’re responsible for it, it’s bad. And there’s hope that we can make progress against this. If a kid can walk out of school with that information, then they are set up to understand more deeply, how it will affect their life, how it will affect their politics, how it will affect their job prospects. The way that you teach kids that is not just once in science class, but talking to them about it in social studies, civics, history, English. In New Jersey just adopted some new academic standards that has it even in math, in physical education, in computer science. Little bits of it throughout an education in developmentally appropriate ways. Not teaching a second grader about carbon dioxide in parts per million, but getting them prepared to understand the world as it functions is possible, it will be so relevant to their life, and it’s such a actually really useful tool to understand the world. So I think that’s one piece of advice. 

And then the other piece of advice is something that Frank Niepold told me — I think I was telling you this offline earlier. But right now, climate education is 99% problem and 1% solution, and young people want 20% problem and 80% solution. So you don’t need to beat kids over the head with how bad things are. But you do need to get their brains and imaginations involved in finding ways that we can survive and thrive, despite the crisis.

Host Raj Daniels 39:45

Katie, I think getting imaginations involved is a great place to leave off. I appreciate your time today. I wish you all the best with the book, and I look forward to catching up with you again soon.

Katie Worth 39:57

Thanks. Likewise, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.

Host Raj Daniels 40:02

Thank you, Katie.

Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nex

If you like our show, please give us a rating and review on iTunes. And you can show your support by sharing our show with a friend or reach out to us on social media where you can find us at our Nexus PMG handle.

If there’s a subject or topic you’d like to hear about, send Raj Daniels an email at BTU@NexusPMG.com or contact me via our website, NexusPMG.com. While you’re there, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter where we share what we’re reading and thinking about in the cleantech green tech sectors

Raj Daniels

You may also like: