Written by Andy Balaskovitz, Environmental Science and Policy Program
To Matt Ferkany (Teacher Education), environmental dilemmas are ethical dilemmas raising hard questions about what we ought to do and what our values are. So environmental education should have civic and moral components that prepare future citizens for wrestling collectively with these sorts of questions about the environment.
Some of Ferkany's most recent work is alongside ESPP affiliated faculty member Kyle Powys Whyte (Philosophy). The two are looking at environmental education in primary and secondary schools. Specifically, they are seeking a deeper understanding of environmental education's civic and moral nature, and what implications that has for how it should be taught.
"We're working up an ... understanding of [what] the civic and moral dimensions of environmental education should be," he said. "So how should future generations be educated? What qualities make for good environmental citizens? What are the values and ideals that go with being able to make wise environmental decisions?"
Ferkany said the research is in the "abstract" stage and that soon the two will be conducting interviews with educators to find out how they integrate environmental education into the curriculum.
Ferkany received his bachelor's degree from Oakland University and his master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison - all in philosophy. He has taught philosophy courses since 2000 at U-W Madison, Central Michigan University and MSU. This year, he joined MSU's Department of Teacher Education. Ferkany also has experience teaching K-12 students at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University and in the Auburn Hills School District.
Ferkany is using his background in philosophy to research how environmental education can be implemented in schools without being politically controversial. While teaching environmental dilemmas can be tied to political issues - especially with issues such as climate change - Ferkany said "we take a slightly different approach" and avoid politics by finding common ground.
"What are the features of environmental dilemmas and what would it take to solve that problem? What is involved in thinking through the dilemma? We avoid the controversy of what's going on. We're looking for points of agreement and a policy approach that works for everyone. How do we meet other folks' views in the public space in a way that is productive for all of us? Our approach is: What do we value in this discussion and how do we realize those values?"