HARTFORD, CT — Lawmakers on the Education Committee contemplated Friday whether to add climate change and Native American studies to public school curriculum.
Education Commissioner Miguel A. Cardona said the bills were important, although he cautioned “against the appearance of another unfunded mandate for our districts.”
Latoya Cluff, vice chairwoman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, lent her support to the bill. She explained that the only way to stop prejudices against indigenious people is to start incorporating it into K-12 classrooms.
Last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a bill that requires African American, Puerto Rican and Latino history studies to be taught as elective courses in Connecticut public schools.
“Throughout the 13 years I have spent in the public education system in the state of Connecticut, anything concerning the history of the American Indian peoples has often been limited to the first Thanksgiving” said Lucas Rodriguez, a senior at Connecticut River Academy.
Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, Mutawi Mutahash Marilynn Malerba, agrees with Cluff.
“It is vital that we teach the history of the first peoples of Connecticut from the perspective of the first peoples of Connecticut,” Malerba said. “It is only through a deep understanding of one another, that we live in harmony with one another.”
The same sentiment was expressed for the addition of climate change legislation.
Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, said that the bill is essential in educating children on the effects of climate change. She believes this bill must be passed as promptly as possible considering this is a “constant evolving problem.”
“By making it a requirement … we’re ensuring that no one in the future can ever strip out the teaching of Climate Change” Palm said.
Superintendent of Derby Public Schools, Matthew Conway opposed both bills. He said both Climate Change and Native American studies are already taught in schools. Native American classes are offered as early as third grade, through studies such as “The Indigenous Peoples of Connecticut,” “Indigenous Life in New England” and “Relations with Indigenous Peoples.” Conway additionally said that climate change is already covered in fifth and ninth grade as well as Environmental Sciences. He asked the General Assembly to work with him as “we can’t just keep adding instructional mandates without increasing the time students are in school.”