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Weekly John Locke Foundation research division newsletter focusing on environmental issues.

The newsletter highlights relevant analysis done by the JLF and other think tanks as well as items in the news.

NC Public Schools: Using End of Course Test to Spread Environmentalist Propaganda — Part 4

For the last three weeks I have examined some questions from the "North Carolina End of Course Assessment" in biology that were released and produced by the state Division of Public Instruction. The problem with these questions is that they eschew actual science and promote what is clearly an advocacy position taken by environmental pressure groups. Below is the fourth and final question that I am highlighting in this series.

If worldwide deforestation is not regulated, what could most likely result? [emphasis in the original]

A. Acid rain could lower the pH of rivers and lakes to dangerous levels for aquatic life.
B. CO2 levels in the atmosphere could increase and contribute to global warming problems.
C. Plants and animals could become better adapted to living in desert conditions.
D. Future generations of humans could have an excess of wood and paper products.

The "correct" answer, as shown in the answer key, is B. This could be the most muddled and meaningless question from the four that I have examined. The question "what could most likely result" is nonsensical. At first glance one would think that the questioner was asking "what would be the mostly likely result if worldwide deforestation is not regulated?" This would be a straight-forward question. But the phrase "could most likely result" is the equivalent of saying "has the possibility of being the most likely result among the answers given." Huh?

Notice what is not being claimed with this question and answer. It is not being claimed that B is, in reality, a likely result of not regulating deforestation, which is what I believe the writers of the question were trying to suggest to the student. It is not even saying that B is definitely the most likely result among the answers given. As noted, what it is saying is that among the answers given there is a possibility that B could be the most likely result. If this all sounds like jiberish — it is. But what makes it worse than mere jiberish is that it is jiberish meant to mislead the student into thinking that something much more dire is being claimed, i.e. if governments worldwide do not regulate deforestation global warming will intensify.

At this point I would like to refer the reader back to the first question highlighted in this series where I examined some of the problems associated with the relationship being implied in this question between CO2 and global warming.

Ultimately this is not a question about biology but about effectiveness and appropriateness of government regulation. Political science, history, law, or regulation are all possible subject areas for this question. My guess is that these are not topics studied in any biology class in North Carolina, and if they are, they shouldn’t be.


Over the past four weeks this newsletter has examined 4 different questions posed to students taking the end of course biology exam. All of these questions and their answers were worded in such a way as to advance a political agenda promoted by environmental pressure groups. What is particularly telling is that in order to ask these questions the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction had to step outside the subject matter that was being examined. Like the question under consideration this week, none of the four questions actually belonged on a biology exam. Chemistry, physics, geology, even economics and political science? Yes. Biology? No. Also, all the questions tended to use non-exact and misleading language in order to give an impression that they meant something that careful reading revealed that they did not mean at all. Lastly, several of the questions displayed outright ignorance of the science, the actual data, and the law.

In looking back at these questions there are three possible explanations. Either the people who were chosen to write these question were poor scientists who did not understand their subject matter or they were people who specifically had an environmentalist agenda and wanted to use this test to advance that agenda, or both. None of these possibilities are defendable.  

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