If We Knew Our History - Zinn Education Project New Monthly Column
Presented by the Zinn Education Project
A Collaboration between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change

Tim Swinehart
Stealing and Selling Nature: Why We Need to Reclaim "the Commons" in the Curriculum  

By Tim Swinehart  

Portland, Ore. high school teacher


Diggers and female farmers
From the Diggers of the 1600s in England to current-day female farmers in India, the value of sharing space for the benefit of the community transcends nations. However the "commons" are buried in chapters that champion industrial capitalism's "progress" and "innovation."
In the wake of superstorm Sandy and a presidential election in which both candidates essentially ignored climate change, it's time that our schools began to play their part in creating climate literate citizens.


Hurricane Sandy, and the superstorms that will follow, are not just acts of nature----they are products of a massive theft of the atmospheric commons shared by all life on the planet. Every dollar of profit made by fossil fuel companies relies on polluting our shared atmosphere with harmful greenhouse gases, stealing what belongs to us all. But if we don't teach students the history of the commons, they'll have a hard time recognizing what----and who----is responsible for today's climate crisis. Read more.





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Related resources at the Zinn Education Project website

Don't Take Our Voices Away'Don't Take Our Voices Away': A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change. Teaching Activity PDF. By Julie Treick O'Neill and Tim Swinehart. A role play on the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change that asks students to develop a list of demands to present to the rest of the world at the U.N. climate change treaty meeting.
Five Years After the Levees Broke: Bearing Witness Through Poetry. Teaching Activity PDF. By Ren´┐Że Watson. A teacher's reflection on the power of poetry to spark critical discussion and reflection on current issues of inequality surrounding disaster response in the United States.
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Dirty Oil and Shovel-Ready Jobs: A Role Play on Tar Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline. Teaching Activity. By Abby Mac Phail. Role play on the Keystone XL Pipeline battle.
Dirty Business: "Clean Coal" and the Battle for Our Energy Future. Film. Produced by Peter Bull, Justin Weinstein, Alex Gibney. 88 minutes. A feature documentary that addresses the questions: Can coal be made clean? Can renewables and efficiency happen on a scale large enough to replace coal?
Gasland. Film. Directed by Josh Fox. 2010. 107 minutes. When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he crosses the country and uncovers a trail of contamination.
The Story of Bottled Water. Film. By Annie Leonard. 2010. 7 minutes. A viewer-friendly, informative, animated critique of the bottled water industry.
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