School Science Lessons Targeted by Climate Change DoubtersSkill Level 8, Published on: Mar 24, 2019
As climate change becomes more widely taught in American classrooms, some politicians are fighting for lessons to include information outside of usual scientific theories.
A lawmaker from Connecticut wants to remove climate change from state science lessons. A legislator in Virginia worries that teachers are passing on their opinions, not facts, on global warming to their students. And an Oklahoma state senator wants educators to be able to put forward other differing ideas on climate change without fearing job loss.
Many of the measures proposed so far in 2019 were designed by two advocacy groups: the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute.
David Bullard, a Republican state senator from Oklahoma, is a former high school teacher. He proposed a bill based on suggested legislation from the Discovery Institute. Science teachers objected, however, and the bill did not move forward.
Bullard told the Associated Press, “You have to present two sides of the argument and allow the kids to deliberate.”
Scientists and science education organizations, however, reject the idea that there are “two sides” to the issue.
An international group of Nobel-winning scientists has repeatedly published reports describing the science behind climate change. The scientists explain how the world is likely to pass a level of warming that an international agreement calls dangerous.
Classroom teachings on global warming differ widely from state to state. However, climate change and the ways humans are changing the planet are central subjects in the Next Generation Science Standards. Nineteen American states and the District of Columbia use the standards. Twenty-one other states use some of the materials.
James Taylor is with Heartland, a group that dismisses climate change. He said Heartland supports inclusive classroom discussions on the issue.
In 2017, the group sent thousands of science teachers copies of a book called “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.”
Now, Heartland is more directly targeting its message to students. It is planning to publish a guide this year that says arguments linking climate change to extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are not correct.
The Discovery Institute has offered model legislation. It says teachers should be permitted to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of evidence connected to global warming as well as evolution. Some states have passed similarly written measures in the past, including Tennessee in 2012 and Louisiana in 2008.
Although many details about climate science are hotly debated among scientists, it is well established that global warming is real, human-caused and a problem, said scientist Chris Field. He is director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Field said, “When people say we ought to present two sides, they’re saying we ought to present a side that’s totally been disproven along with a side that has been fundamentally supported by the evidence.”
Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.
allow (v.) /əˈlaʊ/ - Let (someone) have or do something.
- My boss wouldn't allow me to change my schedule.
deliberate (v.) /dɪˈlɪbəˌreɪt/ - to think about or discuss something very carefully in order to make a decision
- The jury deliberated for two days before reaching a verdict.
fundamental (adj.) /ˌfʌndəˈmɛntl̟/ - forming or relating to the most important part of something
- There's a fundamental difference between these two political parties.
evolution (n.) /ˌɛvəˈluːʃən/ - a theory that the differences between modern plants and animals are because of changes that happened by a natural process over a very long time
- Darwin discovered evolution through natural selection.
Answer these questions about the article.
1. What changes are some American politicians fighting for?
2. Which advocacy groups are the authors of the majority of the measures?
3. According to the Discovery Institute, how should teachers teach topics such as climate change and evolution?
Please give your opinion on the following statement and give your reasons behind it.
- Climate change is definitely caused by humans and it should be presented as such in schools.
Have a discussion on following questions.
1. What do you think of the efforts of some politicians to change how students learn about climate change?
2. Should students learn about climate change in schools?
3. What other controversial topics should / should not be taught in schools?
4. Who should decide what is taught in schools, in your opinion?