'Why my daughter doesn't recycle': an economics professor's letter to his child's teacher

A US economics professor has published the letter he wrote to his daughter’s schoolteacher explaining why he doesn’t want his girl indoctrinated in the green religion. Steven Landsburg, a professor at Rochester, NY, included it as part of a longer essay in which he calls environmentalism a “coercive ideology” targeted specifically at children. (H/T Bishop Hill)

His stance – such as his abhorrence of recycling: “We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We
teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to
force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights.” – may seem extreme, but his economic arguments are sound.

After my daughter progressed from preschool to kindergarten her teachers taught her to conserve resources by rinsing out her paper cup instead of discarding it. I explained to her that time is also a valuable resource and it might be worth sacrificing some cups to save time…

Dear Rebecca:

When we lived in Colorado, Cayley was the only Jewish child in her
class. There were also a few Moslems. Occasionally, and especially
around Christmas time, the teachers forgot about this diversity and
made remarks that were appropriate only for the Christian children.
These remarks came rarely, and were easily counteracted at home with
explanations that different people believe different things, so we chose
not to say anything at first. We changed our minds when we overheard a
teacher telling a group of children that if Santa didn’t come to your
house, it meant you were a very bad child; this was within earshot of
an Islamic child who certainly was not going to get a visit from Santa.
At that point, we decided to share our concerns with the teachers.
They were genuinely apologetic and there were no more incidents. I have
no doubt that the teachers were good and honest people who had no
intent to indoctrinate, only a certain naïveté derived from a
provincial upbringing.

Perhaps that same sort of honest naïveté is what underlies the
problems we’ve had at the JCC this year. Just as Cayley’s teachers in
Colorado were honestly oblivious to the fact that there is diversity in
religion, it may be that her teachers at the JCC have been honestly
oblivious that there is diversity in politics.

Let me then make that diversity clear. We are not environmentalists.
We ardently oppose environmentalists. We consider environmentalism a
form of mass hysteria akin to Islamic fundamentalism or the War on
Drugs. We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We
teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to
force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights.

The preceding paragraph is intended to serve the same purpose as
announcing to Cayley’s Colorado teachers that we are not Christians.
Some of them had never been aware of knowing anybody who was not a
Christian, but they adjusted pretty quickly.

Once the Colorado teachers understood that we and a few other
families did not subscribe to the beliefs that they were propagating,
they instantly apologized and stopped. Nobody asked me what exactly it
was about Christianity that I disagreed with; they simply recognized
that they were unlikely to change our views on the subject, and
certainly had no business inculcating our child with opposite views.

I contrast this with your reaction when I confronted you at the
preschool graduation. You wanted to know my specific disagreements with
what you had taught my child to say. I reject your right to ask that
question. The entire program of environmentalism is as foreign to us as
the doctrine of Christianity. I was not about to engage in detailed
theological debate with Cayley’s Colorado teachers and they would not
have had the audacity to ask me to. I simply asked them to lay off the
subject completely, they recognized the legitimacy of the request, and
the subject was closed.

I view the current situation as far more serious than what we
encountered in Colorado for several reasons. First, in Colorado we were
dealing with a few isolated remarks here and there, whereas at the JCC
we have been dealing with a systematic attempt to inculcate a doctrine
and to quite literally put words in children’s mouths. Second, I do
not sense on your part any acknowledgment that there may be people in
the world who do not share your views. Third, I am frankly a lot more
worried about my daughter’s becoming an environmentalist than about her
becoming a Christian. Fourth, we face no current threat of having
Christianity imposed on us by petty tyrants; the same can not be said
of environmentalism. My county government never tried to send me a New
Testament, but it did send me a recycling bin.

Although I have vowed not to get into a discussion on the issues,
let me respond to the one question you seemed to think was very
important in our discussion: Do I agree that with privilege comes
responsibility? The answer is no. I believe that responsibilities arise
when one undertakes them voluntarily. I also believe that in the
absence of explicit contracts, people who lecture other people on their
to be wary of such people — even when they are preschool teachers who
have otherwise earned a lot of love.


Steven Landsburg


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