NPR covers climate education

04.23.2019

NPR logo

There is widespread support for climate change education among both parents and teachers, according to a poll commissioned by National Public Radio (April 22, 2019). Yet, as NPR also reported, teachers do not necessarily have everything they need to teach climate change effectively, including state science standards that present the topic accurately.

Overall, 66% of respondents agreed with "Schools should teach about climate change and its impacts on our environment, economy and society," 12% preferred "Schools should teach that climate change exists, but not the potential impacts," and 10% selected "Schools should not teach anything about climate change," with 13% indicating that they didn't know.

Parents and teachers in particular were even more supportive of climate change education, with 68% of parents and 74% of teachers agreeing with "Schools should teach about climate change and its impacts on our environment, economy and society," and only 6% of parents and 8% of teachers preferring "Schools should not teach anything about climate change."

Teachers were also asked about their teaching of climate change. More than half — 55% — said that they do not discuss it, largely (65%) because it's outside their subject area. But 29% of teachers expressed worry about complaints from parents and only 37% indicated that they received encouragement from their schools or districts. 

As for encouragement from their states, NPR noted that, "According to an analysis ... by Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, 36 states in total currently recognize human-caused climate change somewhere in their state standards." Those states include the nineteen states to have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards.

Branch emphasized, however, "the fact that human-caused climate change is included in a state's science standards doesn't mean that teachers in that state do teach it." Among the factors that inhibit teachers is proposed legislation, which "Branch sees ... as part of a concerted and continuing effort to block the treatment of mainstream science."

The polls were conducted March 21-22, 2019, among 1007 U.S. adults and March 21-29, 2019, among 505 teachers; NPR did not specify whether the polls were conducted by telephone or online. "The credibility interval for the overall sample is 3.5 percentage points; parents, 7.3 percentage points; and teachers, 5.0 percentage points."