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The Pulse of Earth Science: An Advocacy Guide

Why You Need to Get Involved

As someone who is deeply engaged in Earth science, you know how vital the geosciences are to living in today’s world. And your neighbors receive daily reminders in the form of news headlines about natural disasters, energy crises, technological advances, and global climate controversies. No matter who you are, the importance of this discipline is clear.

Yet we’re turning our backs on Earth science. Public schools are dropping Earth science from the curriculum. Geoscience enrollments at higher education institutions are faltering, and some colleges and universities are closing relevant departments. As a result, not only are our citizens ill-informed on key issues, but our nation’s economic and geopolitical standing is threatened by a critical lack of expertise in the public and private sectors. We are failing to make the case — to students, parents, education officials, and key decisionmakers — that Earth science ranks among the most important science subjects for young people to study.

Why? Federal mandates, such as No Child Left Behind, have led public schools to limit the scope of curriculum and instruction. Colleges and universities have catered to fluctuations in student interests, hot career fields, and market pressures. State education agencies and local district officials, meanwhile, have focused the curricula that young people study on chemistry, physics, and biology — the science subjects that their parents tend to emphasize. Sound familiar?

If your community is like many others, education decisionmakers may be scaling back or eliminating Earth science offerings. Maybe your school principal is discouraging spending classroom time on the subject. Maybe your school board is excluding it from the district’s required curriculum. Maybe state legislators are minimizing Earth science content in academic standards and testing. Maybe nearby colleges and universities are dismantling geology departments or, often just as damaging, folding them into other departments that downplay geoscience.

But you can make a difference. Use the step-by-step recommendations provided here to tell education decisionmakers how you feel. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Schedule a visit with a member of your state board of education. Invite a policymaker to visit a local classroom to see geoscience education in action — and what it means to your community. Maybe even more than most of us, education leaders need help in sifting through today’s information overload. That’s where you come in. With your geoscientific expertise and ties to the community, you’re in a perfect position to point out the importance of Earth science to education decisionmakers. (See Why Earth Science?)

Will they pay attention? You bet. Most of the leaders you’ll be contacting are people who got into education and public service because they genuinely want to do what’s best. Moreover, elected officials at all levels, from local school board members to state legislators, know that their positions depend on how well they listen to voters’ concerns. And many other decisionmakers, from school principals to college deans, find that they also must be responsive to constituents, including students, parents, instructors, local professionals, and the employers who are the “real world” representatives of subjects taught in school.

Education officials’ success hinges on their ability to serve community members like you. Your mission, then, is to communicate what’s important to you.

How Policy Is Made

 

 

 

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