June 8 2012
U.S. Department of Education is Seeing Green
Vicki E. Alger
Not to be outdone, the Department of Education earlier this week “marked another historic milestone for the green schools movement.” (Yes, Virginia, there really is a green schools movement.)
ED announced 78 Green Ribbon Schools during Earth Week in April, and this week those schools were honored at an awards ceremony with “certified plaques and biodegradable banners made of recycled bottles.” Unlike ED’s Blue Ribbon Schools program, which was supposed to recognize academically excellent schools, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan explains that through the Green Ribbon Schools program:
We’re honoring schools that use green roofs, pervious pavement, rain gardens, rain barrels, rain cisterns and low-flow water equipment of all types. At some of the winners, the buses run on ultra-low sulfur diesel, compressed natural gas or the discarded cooking oils of local restaurants. Their conservation efforts extend from the cafeteria to the classroom, as they devise reusable snack bags and water bottles; dine with reusable plates, napkins and utensils for meals; and save paper by converting to digital assignments and grading. … Today’s winners are also providing a comprehensive environmental education that is essential to help students become good citizens, prepared for life and work in the 21st century global economy. They are learning health, science, sustainable agriculture and business acumen by caring for their chickens, bunnies, goats, fish, ducks and bees. They tend to trout and salmon in the cassroom [sic], on-site forests, ponds and lakes, or find ones nearby to adopt.
The program is supposed to “recognize schools where staff, students, officials and communities have worked together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the sustainability and environmental literacy of graduates.”
Last month we learned that not quite one out of three 8th graders is proficient in science on the Nation’s Report Card. Also, school operation and maintenance, capital outlay, and interest on school debt costs total nearly $135 billion nationally. Efforts to improve on both fronts would be welcome. But it’s worth questioning whether the same Washington bureaucrats responsible for Solyndra and related debacles are really up to the task of directing how children are taught the lessons of personal responsibility for themselves and the world around them.