And the headdesk moment of the week goes to Los Alamitos Unified School District, who recently decided that teachers in the school district would have to prove that their curricula have political balance when teaching controversial subjects, including global warming. Reminiscent of the creation of the universe debacles, teachers will now be required to teach “opposing views” because conservative board members are “concerned that ‘liberal’ faculty members could skew lessons on global warming”, according to local news coverage.
This could potentially become a dangerous trend, considering that several other districts, including the Texas board of education and South Dakota public schools, have taken similar views as well. It might be okay to teach climate skepticism if it indeed was taught and identified as climate misinformation that industries deliberately use to confuse the public, not as just a “dissenting opinion”. However this doesn’t appear to be the case here. Just listen to what one of the school board members has to say:
“I believe my role is to represent the conservative voice of the community, and I’m not a big fan of global warming. Most teachers are left to center, and if we leave it to teachers to impose their liberal views, then it would make for an unbalanced lesson. Some people believe that global warming is a crock of crap, and others are zealots,” said Jeffrey Barke who, when not practicing for his future career as a Fox News anchor, also sits on the school board.
They seem to forget that 98% of respectable climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is driven by human influences. Not only that, but the majority of Americans understand climate change is real and also believe it’s man-made, although apparently we’ve identified that the minority reside on the Los Alamitos Unified school board.
“Our goal is to have every high school student complete at least one AP course, and this is a good one to take because it is not heavily math-based,” said Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp.
Clearly, because if it was based on math, students could find that actual equations prove earth’s climate has been put on steroids, and it’s because we’re spewing billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere everyday, for the past century. It’s not rocket science, it’s a simple calculation that shows that energy in (from the sun) ≠energy out (back into space) on our planet.
“We define a topic to be controversial if it has more than one widely held view,” said Kropp, “There are many issues regarding the environment that have become politicized these days and we want kids to be exposed to all sides. An unbalanced lesson would portray only one side. All we want is to have teachers teach the various scientific theories out there.”
This would be a nice sentiment if there were legitimate various scientific theories out there, but the industry-backed, Koch-fueled, conservative manifesto that currently exists as an opposing political view is not synonymous with being an opposing scientific theory.
This is why science is inherently not a political issue. Everyone wants to debate politics, and there are always multiple political approaches to a problem. The reason there shouldn’t be a debate on climate change anymore is because the debate happened decades ago, between rational, legitimate scientists. Yet skeptics and dirty energy industry apologists still demand a “debate” today, long after the science has been settled.
If this were an education-themed metaphor, it would be like that student who waltzes into class 15 minutes late only to start asking questions about a topic that was thoroughly covered 15 minutes ago, when class actually started, and yet is still surprised and affronted when everyone in class, including the teacher, looks at him like he’s a total dunce.
The difference between science and religion is clearly distinguishable (except maybe in Texas), and now the distinction between science and politics must also be reviewed, all thanks to wingnut school boards.
Sure, discuss opposing political views in a policy class, or debate club, but not in science class, where politics should have no presence. The intelligent design issue went all the way to the courts, and it took a judge to finally nix it as an opposing scientific theory. Let’s not let climate change become the next “intelligent design” controversy.
As for the Los Alamitos school board, no phone calls were returned to answer whether they would also be requiring alternate views on such controversial subjects as gravity, how babies are made, or whether or not the moon was made of cheese.
Mark Jaccard is professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University.
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