December 27, 2007

Active Learning vs Learning Activism

Students were apathetic when I was in junior high school, so I'm not saying that what I'm seeing in my classes is anything new or surprising. I was shocked, however, a few weeks ago when I found that out of a class of 11 students (small groups are great, but I'm not crazy about the prime number) no one could name more than two countries that have the Bomb. The same group tells me that Anne Frank was just some girl who died, "Big Deal."

I know that they've had some exposure to the Global Warming issue because their previous teacher told me they watched An Inconvenient Truth in class. How much of it sunk in I couldn't say. Might have just been a flavor of the week sort of activity.

The majority of the students I've met in Taiwan are just interested in getting through the next test so they can move up to the next rung. Several essays last week on "A Good Experience" recounted glory days of fifth grade when they got the only 100 on a science test, or came in 6th place in their class for the first time. When the sea levels rise, I suspect it will be much easier to float one's boat.

While American 8th graders don't do much trig or calculus, I suspect they know more about the coming Peak Oil crisis than do Taiwanese students, or even many American adults. There was a National Geographic article back in June 2004 about the end of Cheap Oil and the impact it would have on US--that is humanity as a whole. I liked the pictures, too, and then I moved on.

But a total stranger contacted me about a now defunct webzine Taiphoon (they haven't published since 2004) that I had linked on my graffiti page. We agreed that the lack of activism is disheartening. I thought that Taiwan, being an island and everything, would be an obvious leader in the fight against rising sea levels. He said global warming is nothing compared to what's going to happen when oil production fails to meet worldwide demand in the next 2-50 years.

He then sent me an ungodly amount of links to various articles about the Peak Oil crisis. Apparently this is something that's getting a lot of play in some countries, and very little in others. No one wants to break the bad news in an Election Year, eh? Remember when Jimmy Carter said:

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby
gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an
extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Well, that was in July 1979 (click here for the full text of his televised address) If you're old enough to remember Howard Cosell, you know what happened next. Americans didn't like to be told not to drive the cars and they elected a smiling former governor from California who removed price controls and failed to fill up oil reserves with cheap oil. Oops.

I saw an old episode of Real Time with Bill Maher the other day. Sheryl Crow and Laurie David were hyping some global warming information spreading event or other via sattelite in Alabama of all places. Maher asked a question that gets right to the heart of the problem: "If every American was told that to end Global Warming all he would have to do was to not use his TV remote ever again, do you think he would do it?" Well, what do you think?

The following question, as far as I know, has not been addressed by any of the candidates. How'd they get around that?

I worry about stuff naturally. It's my nature. I shouldn't worry about most of the things, like getting docked 10NT per minute I'm late to work, or that students aren't turning in their writing assignments anywhere near on time. But, when I see a group of kids plugged into their iPods standing on a railroad track with a steadily approaching freight train bearing down upon them, I feel twitchy. Should I be worried that much of the world is oblivious to the Peak Oil situation?

Well, I am, because I have two beautiful children, and I wonder what will become of them and where we will end up. Is Taiwan the place to live in a post-oil age? If the Peak has already happened, when do I need to high tail it back to America, and then WTF is an English teacher to do? eco comic with lesson plans suitable for all ages. injecting awareness into the ESL classroom.

Here's a warm & fuzzy Peak Oil essay from

Also, ABC (Australia) has a great Peak Oil episode on their 4 Corners news program.

No comments: