Coloring a Green Generation: The Law and Policy of Nationally Mandated Environmental Education and Social Value Formation at the Primary and Secondary Academic Levels Open Access
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The term "environmental education" refers to the practice of educating the general population - either by formal or non-formal academic methodology - about the nature of the environment, environmental degradation, and the impact of various human behaviors on the environment. Environmental education responds to a growing public awareness of the rapidly deteriorating state of the environment and the belief that an informed public will make informed lifestyle decisions giving due consideration to the environmental impact of their behavior.The international community has long recognized the economic and social value of environmental education. Various instruments of international law encourage States to develop national environmental education policies and integrate formal and non-formal programs into existing public education schemes. While the policy recommendations of the international community with regard to environmental education have been adopted by States with varying levels of success, four countries in particular - Australia, Brazil, India and the Netherlands - provide outstanding examples of superior policy development in this field.The United States unfortunately lacks the same degree of progressive policy development concerning the institutionalization of environmental education within the framework of public education. In the absence of a superseding national policy, state officials remain responsible for the development of environmental education in state public schools. As a result, the level of environmental education received by American students is inconsistent and wholly dependent upon the state of residence. Failure to receive a basic level of environmental education leaves many American students unprepared for the globalized and "green" economy of the future.This Article analyzes the environmental education policies adopted by foreign jurisdictions as well as recent policy developments in California and Maryland, and builds upon the lessons learned from previous models to propose a framework for policy development of a national environmental education mandate in the United States.