Stuyvesant Student Calls for Climate Justice Curriculum
To the editor:
As a student at Stuyvesant High School, one of New York City’s most well-funded, affluent public high schools, I’ve always been vaguely aware of the fact that I am incredibly lucky and privileged.
But I take for granted my new textbooks each year, how my teachers can devote individualised attention to each student, and that, due to the wealth of resources my school has access to, it is one of the most sustainable and eco-conscious schools in the city.
During my freshman orientation last year, much of it focused on the green team, the roof-top garden, and extensive recycling and composting systems; all sustainability efforts that go far beyond the basic requirements laid out by the Department of Education.
Before, I thought this was normal because I’ve always had access to sustainability opportunities. I do not identify as white, and although my privileged background has made it harder for me to see this gaping disparity, my identity has made it easier for me to see how the ability of a school to be sustainable is intrinsically related to the school’s economic resources.
However, these resources aren’t equal, and so most public schools in New York City are forced to make a choice between basic education and helping combat an existential crisis. Most schools who are able to be part of the climate movement encompass privileged populations which make the movement seem that it is only comprised of advocates from one demographic. As Leo Ramirez, a senior at Food and Finance High School, described, “the teen climate movement within NYC is very white washed and privileged” and that to “to accurately represent the melting pot of the entire NYC caucus” we must level the playing field for all students.
Schools in neighborhoods with majority Black and Hispanic communities have been found to be disproportionately lacking in funds to properly run their school compared to schools with predominantly white or Asian communities, yet the city only provides these schools with 15 percent more money than they do better-funded schools.
There is a simple solution that would allow all students in the NYC public school system to become climate justice leaders: a mandatory climate justice curriculum.
Wealthy schools have climate education integrated into some parts of their lessons, but there is no mandate that makes climate education as crucial to teach as math, science, or English. However, a climate justice curriculum would encompass the scientific aspects of climate change, the across-the-board impacts on environmental justice communities, policies, and much more. The climate crisis is one that brings together so many different fields, and it takes skill to learn and act on the intricacies of policies, science, and politics. New Jersey and Washington have already taken the leap into the revolution, and we need to do our part to train the next generation of climate justice leaders.
As an Indian-American teenager, I want to help make more space for people who look like me to take charge of their future.