NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Evaluating Environmental Textbooks

March 1, 1998

Environmental education is increasingly a required or elective part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools across the United States. Wisconsin is known nationwide as a leader in environmental education, and the textbooks used to instruct the state's teachers on how to impart environmental information to their students are widely used in other states.

Wisconsin recently evaluated the materials it was using to teach the teachers, using an evaluation process developed by the North American Association for Environmental Education. The aim of the NAAEE is to achieve standards of accuracy, balance and fairness in environmental teaching literature.

Reviewing literature used in 12 courses offered teachers at eight University of Wisconsin campuses, researchers found:

  • Only two of the teachers' courses met the guidelines with qualifications, seven failed to meet the guidelines and three used materials that contained uneven information resulting in an inconclusive evaluation.
  • Many of the materials being used mislead teachers by mixing science with advocacy.
  • Science was employed selectively to lead future teachers to predetermined conclusions.
  • A balanced and fair treatment of economic reasoning was largely nonexistent in the materials.

Moreover, normal standards of scholarship were almost entirely missing and the materials largely failed to transmit to prospective teachers the educational responsibility and ethics involved in educating. Too often the information teachers received was simply propaganda, say researchers.

In the study reporting their findings, researchers recommend state officials hold university administrators responsible for what is going on in these classes. Also, they say prospective teachers should be required to meet certain competency requirements before being allowed to teach.

Source: "Teaching Environmental Education to Wisconsin Teachers," Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report, Vol. 10, No. 7, November 1997, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, P.O. Box 487, Thiensville, Wis. 53092, (414) 241-0774.


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