New Jersey has included climate change in its latest Student Learning Standards, the first US state to do so. According to a report by NJ.com, beginning in September of 2021, climate change education will be taught in seven curriculum areas — 21st Century Life and Careers, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages.
Tammy Murphy, wife of New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, was a driving force behind the curriculum changes. “The adoption of these standards is much more than an added educational requirement; it is a symbol of a partnership between generations,” she said after the changes were approved. “Decades of short sighted decision making has fueled this crisis and now we must do all we can to help our children solve it. This generation of students will feel the effects of climate change more than any other, and it is critical that every student is provided an opportunity to study and understand the climate crisis through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary lens.”
She added that the new curriculum will prepare students for a future in which climate change will affect all parts of society. “It’s a really tangible problem that this generation of children will be required to face,” she said.
Governor Murphy said the new standards will prepare a new generation to participate in an economy shaped by climate change impacts, particularly in the energy sector. “A top priority of my administration has been to reestablish New Jersey’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change. The adoption of these standards across our K-12 schools is an important step forward that will strengthen the future of New Jersey’s green energy economy.”
Will This Be Another Monkey Trial Moment?
Almost a century ago, John Scopes was put on trial for daring to teach evolution to students in Tennessee. Climate change is just as controversial in many segments of American society. Will we see angry mobs carrying torches and pitchforks outside New Jersey schools in the future? Hopefully not. According to an NPR/Ipsos poll published last year, more than 80% of American parents and nearly 90% of American teachers said they believe climate change should be taught in schools. 90% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans support climate change education.
New Jersey, like many coastal states, is experiencing the effects of more powerful storms, rising sea levels, and warmer temperatures. Under Governor Murphy, it has become a leader in renewable energy, especially offshore wind farms. Perhaps other states will look at what New Jersey has done and decide their children need a 21st century education, too.