by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Alex Nussbaum reports in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek on debates surrounding global warming education in public schools across the country.
“You’re seeing science standards held hostage to political machinations,” says Lisa Hoyos, a former union organizer who two years ago co-founded Climate Parents, a national group that defends classroom teaching about the topic.
The fight began in 2013, when the Next Generation Science Standards were released by the National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences, and Achieve, the nonprofit that helped develop the national Common Core curriculum, an initiative strongly backed by the Obama administration. The standards, written with input from educators in 26 states, recommend that students study “the rise in global temperatures over the past century” and “the major role that human activities play.”
Efforts to block teaching about climate change echo attempts by religious conservatives two decades ago to put creationism based on biblical teaching on equal footing with evolution in science classrooms. “On one side you have 97 percent of scientists and video of melting polar caps, and on the other you have 3 percent of scientists, with discredited theories,” Hoyos says. “Why give them equal space?”
In West Virginia the state school board adopted standards based on the Next Generation framework in November, but modified the language at the request of L. Wade Linger, a board member who runs an information technology company in Fairmont. One tweak added a reference to Milankovitch cycles, long-term shifts in the earth’s orbit that some climate change skeptics—though few scientists—have blamed for rising temperatures. Another added a requirement that sixth-graders analyze factors that have led to declines in global temperature over the past 100 years, not only increases, despite data that show temperatures overall have increased. “Science has never been advanced by consensus. It’s been advanced by contrarian views that caused people to think,” Linger says. “It’s the other side that doesn’t want anything else taught.”
A former union organizer who buys into the “97 percent consensus” canard? I’d rather listen to the IT guy.