Have you ever wondered what would happen if ALL teachers-to-be had instruction in the use of EE and the out-of-doors in their higher education? Don't wonder too much, because fewer and fewer teacher education programs are supporting environmental education.
In many cases EE is sinking in the mire of budget cuts and misunderstanding about the value of environmental education to produce better qualified teachers. If we believe that student teaching prepares young people for the profession, if methods classes prepare them to teach subjects in the classroom, then how can we expect teachers to be prepared to use the outdoors effectively without nature experiences? The research supports the value of nature and the out-doors for students, but we have no advocates for EE in higher education.
As many states are winnowing down their teacher education programs to bare bones, as technology has become one of the primary means of educating students in higher education, in spite of the fact they already spend an inordinate amount of time behind computers, games and other forms of technology, it appears environmental education is like the arts, appreciated but not valued enough to be supported. As a result, we are creating techno teachers, savvy technologically speaking, but that will become less healthy, less able to stay well both physically and emotionally, and less able to meet the needs of children. Basically higher education is creating teachers that are more seat bound, more likely to encourage seat bound education, making both the teacher and the students more challenged and more likely to be sedentary. As one professor said: " I cannot give them experiences in (blank), I do not have the time. So I am telling them about it." And that is in an area highly supported, because it is considered "BASIC." Comforting isn't it, experiential education move over to telling those teachers what to do. I would bet they will not be able to find a lifeboat of quality, hands-on education.
One state, once the model of higher education and environmental education, was slowly sinking into the ocean of indifference, lack of support, and misunderstanding about what it is, what it can do, and why it can do things better. What was once a ship listing to port, is now one with a huge gash in the side that has taken it into the great abyss. It was the iceberg of higher education that looked like a small problem. But under the water, what could not be seen, did most of the damage. The outcome has been the demise of many programs and certainly EE.
Who will teach future teachers about EE? It appears as though the universities will try to stuff mattresses in those gaping holes created by the iceberg of financial malaise and administrative ignorance or worse. Adjuncts or those with little training, they will be brought to bale out the ship with one liter buckets. That will do the job.
Are there enough life boats to save some EE programs? There appears to not be enough life lines or life boats and the water is cold. We may not have enough programs to survive. The waves too are making it rough - after all there are nothing but icecaps in that water. We have seen those icy stares from administrators looking to cut programs.
What happened to the concept that all teachers should experience EE, before they become teachers? What happened to EE programs at the graduate level to help teachers learn about EE and how to use it as an "integrating context? I guess the idea of having all teachers-to-be prepared to teach EE in their classroom was a dream.
Let us return to reading, writing and arithmetic. Also, forget the arts too. Teacher Education is bound to travel on a small skiff, called "Just the Basics." And yes...we need testing, testing, testing too. Those costs help us assess outcomes, no costs are too great for that.