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A Critical Evaluation of the Environmental Education Curriculum in Canada: Putting an End to Passive Citizenry

Mon, April 20, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Virtual Room


A Critical Evaluation of the Environmental Education Curriculum in Canada: Putting an End to Passive Citizenry
Food insecurity is on the rise worldwide and within Canada due to a myriad of factors such as climatic instability, rising food prices and unsustainable food production practices. As a result of how the food system is operating, there are increasing inequities and power imbalances, which shift the supply of and demand for food (Brown, 2012). Educators and leaders have the power to foster to challenge this social problem by invoking new ways of thinking and engaging with food premised on attaining ecological and sustainable food systems (Carlsson & Williams, 2008). Environmental education (EE) is well positioned to develop knowledge, awareness and capacities to engage with, and enact change to environmental and sustainability issues (Robottom, 2013).
As such, this paper forms part of a larger study, which seeks to explore the integration practices of the topic of food security in teacher education. More specifically, this paper explores the descriptions of the topic of food security within official Ontario Ministry of Education documents in order to determine how the topic of food security is being taken up. This presentation will examine whether the curriculum documents present a critical way of thinking about food. This paper utilizes an Ecojustice education framework to expand our understanding of the relationships between food security and ecological soundness (Bowers, 2001). EcoJustice education is based on the idea of teaching towards the recognition that “to be human is to live engaged in a vast and complex system of life, and human well-being depends on learning how to protect it” (Martusewicz & Edmundson, 2005, p. 71). Part of the learning is to develop an understanding that both the ecological and social issues currently facing our world begins with understanding how we think about these very issues through the language we use on a daily basis, and what ideologies are embedded in these ways of thinking (Bowers, 2001; Martusewicz, Edmundson, & Lupinacci, 2011).
To reveal these ideologies, documents were reviewed and analyzed qualitatively for how the topic of food security was discursively presented within the Ontario Ministry of Education documents at both the elementary and secondary levels within the subject matter areas of Social Studies and Science and Technology. The preliminary results illustrate ideologies reflective of anthropocentrism, progress-oriented and community-oriented ways of thinking.
The study is significant because it highlights the social implications of the language used to describe food insecurity (See Martusewicz, Lupinacci, & Scknakenberg, 2010) within the Ontario Ministry of Education documents. Moreover, it demonstrates the urgent need for educators and school leaders to invoke a problem-posing education in the area of food insecurity where educators and students learn from each other about the causes of food insecurity as well as generate alternative media products designed to challenge environmental injustice.