Join the Fight for Skepticism in Schools

Source: Heartland

by David Wojick

Let the fight begin

In March the Heartland Institute fired a big broadside right into the teaching of climate change alarmism in America’s schools. They began sending Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming directly to many of the Nation’s science teachers. Of course the alarmists went nuts, especially Sen. Sheldon “jail the skeptics” Whitehouse, who denounced Heartland’s bold move in a series of letters to various education groups.

My group is now taking the next skeptical step. We are crowd funding the Climate Change Debate Education (CCDE) project. While Heartland’s effort explains skepticism to teachers, our goal is to explain it to the students. You can make donations here.

Our project will establish a website portal that collects and distributes materials to teach about the climate debate. Once established and given sufficient funding we will also produce new teaching materials. The long term goal is to build a collection that systematically addresses all of the important climate science issues at the appropriate grade levels. Our target audience is not just teachers, but parents, friends of students and the students themselves.

There are presently a lot of alarmist websites offering one-sided classroom materials teaching the false dogma of dangerous human induced climate change. That this alarmism is highly debatable is nowhere to be seen on these websites. So we want to counter these alarmist websites with one that teaches about the real debate, between alarmism and realistic skepticism.

Both the Federal government and many advocacy groups maintain websites that distribute alarmist climate teaching materials. These materials teach that dangerous human induced climate change is settled science, which is far from true.

For example, the CLEAN website is funded jointly by NOAA, NSF and DOE. CLEAN stands for Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network. In fact “climate literacy” is code for the false belief that humans are causing dangerous climate change. CLEAN says it has over 600 free, ready to use resources suitable for use in secondary and higher education classrooms. They also boast that they are the core of the “Teaching Climate” part of the federal Climate.gov website. This is Government bias targeting children.

All of CLEAN’s teaching materials are biased and based on this false premise. The reality is that dangerous human influence on climate is completely unproven and the subject of intense scientific debate. That only the scary side is being presented as settled science is a severe lack of balance.

Creating balance in climate science education

The first step toward creating balance in climate education is to provide teaching materials that properly present the scientific debate as it actually is. We propose a phased approach to this effort. First an implementation phase then, if funding is available, a production phase. Here the goal is to recruit and guide volunteers who will produce highly targeted teaching materials. In particular, there is a need for simple, yet well designed, lesson plans that teach a specific scientific issue to a specific grade level.

These lesson plans need to be tailored to the state standards, which typically dictate what topics are taught in which grades. There are numerous specific scientific issues that need to be taught at different grade levels. Each potential lesson needs to be simple and compact, designed to fit into the mandated curriculum. Moreover, each lesson must stand alone, because teaching time is limited.

Getting around the gatekeepers

We will also develop short, handout types of materials as a way to get around what we call the gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are doctrinaire people who make it hard to get balance into the classroom. It may be the principal, the teacher’s supervisor or even the teacher.

Our handouts will be something that a parent or student can bring to class. It is normal for students to bring supplementary materials to class, especially when the topic is controversial. In the case of climate change, surveys have also shown that parents often become involved. As with the lesson plans, these handouts will be highly focused, nonpolitical, and tailored to a specific grade level. Since they will be online they can easily be emailed as well. Thus the gatekeepers cannot prevent their distribution.

Target audiences

There are three distinct target audiences — teachers, parents and students. Teachers need lesson plans, which are relatively specialized documents. Students need materials written at their grade level. Parents need non-technical information that they can explain to their children or use to confront a gatekeeper. Of course teachers and non-parents can use this information as well. The website will be organized in such a way that each group can find what they need.

It is important to keep in mind that many K-12 science teachers do not have science degrees, nor do most parents. K-12 is not the place to go into the technical details of climate science. Simplicity is the key.

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