Amid all the debate over budgets and deficits, there is also (of course) talk of more spending. Right now, like many Americans, I don’t want to ponder additional government “charging," but there is a newly introduced bi-partisan act that has caught my attention.
The No Child Left Inside Act of 2011 was introduced last month by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD). Ohio co-sponsors include Betty Sutton [OH-13] and Dennis Kucinich [OH-10].
If passed, this bill would do such things as assist states to create and execute Environmental Literacy Plans to integrate environmental education and field experiences into public academic programs. In addition, colleges, parks, zoos and other organizations would receive grants to develop and implement professional development for educators.
As a teacher, biology graduate student, wildlife enthusiast and amateur environmentalist, I think the NCLI Act is admirable and highly regard those who have endeavored to sponsor it. I completely agree with the ideology behind it, such as the important notions that children need the opportunity to encounter and learn about nature and that such knowledge and experience helps to prepare them for future careers and to meet Earth’s challenges.
But, I have another side. (This side also includes “teacher” because part of teaching includes helping others to understand the importance of evaluating issues.) This side is suspicious that there might be another way and that caution is in order. “Assist” and “Grants” means bucks. And, nowadays bucks means “charge.” I hate to say this (my other side is yelling, “No, No!”), but . . . could it be possible to find ways to get children outside without “charging?” And, (“No, No!” again) might there be other avenues other than public schools?
North Canton is very fortunate to have many outdoor spaces for children to experience nature, including on the grounds of many our schools. Our tax dollars make these places possible and we should all be commended for this support! Also, our school system does an excellent job of educating our youth, including hiring educators knowledgeable of our environment.
We are fortunate in this regard. However, in many areas of our nation, particularly in large cities, children have very little access to nature. For many of these children, having this type of opportunity will only occur at school or on a field trip. Some of these schools can currently afford this, but others cannot. These are the schools and children that need the money that No Child Left Inside can grant.
Our children should be afforded the chance to live in a country that is not crippled by irresponsible spending, such as the interest we are currently paying on our nation's mounting debt. But childhoods are fleeting, and what a gift it would be to give every child in America the opportunity to be outside. Such is our quandary.