While pundits, billionaires and politicians continue to scream that the educational sky is falling because of teachers’ selfishness, laziness, poor training and lack of accountability, they simultaneously erode the chances that our students will believe anything they learn at school by bombarding them with pseudoscience and other absurdities.
In one of the latest instances, Gov. Rick Perry, of Texas, has called climate change a hoax, according to the Guardian. This is a man who is considered a serious contender for president, despite the fact that he unabashedly pronounces his stupidity, gullibility and superstition. Then again, he has also suggested that Fed Chair Ben Bernacke could come to great physical harm should he step foot in Texas, a threat that would land most other people in prison, or least earn them a visit from the FBI. So perhaps public displays of stupidity and violence are now considered legitimate and inspirational.
Of course Perry is not as stupid as his climate denials would have him seem. He knows which side his bread is buttered on (the oily side). Perry has received $11 million in donations from Big Oil, according to ThinkProgress.org. If Big Oil says climate change is an unproven “theory” (by which they mean opinion, since theories, by definition, are considered satisfactorily proven), then it must be the case. And if the real estate lobby, which gave him nearly $8 million, says there is no foreclosure crisis, then by god, the housing market must be peachy keen, as well. And if the liquor lobby, which gave him more than $2 million, says that drinking is good for your driving, then dang nammit, Americans need to carry open containers in their cars more often, like they do in Texas.
But Mr. Dunn, aren’t you being a little bombastic? Isn’t Perry just a Tea Party hack, with no influence over our children’s education?
Perry is just the tip of the iceberg, the most visible and newsworthy climate denier of late.
The latest issue of Science wrote about the Los Alamitos School Board, in California, which has ordered that environmental science classes include “both sides of the climate debate.” This is kind of like Flat Earthers demanding that geography classes provide both sides of the “debate” on the shape of the Earth, or English classes presenting both sides of the “debate” about “ain’t.” There is no debate or question about whether or not climate change is happening or its causes. The facts are clear and the data overwhelming. What might be considered debatable is what we should do about it, but only if you stand to lose financially, should regulations and limits be placed on the extraction and use of fossil fuels. For the rest of us, the solution is pretty obvious: stop burning fossil fuels, reduce energy consumption and massively invest in carbon-neutral energy sources.
It is certainly bad enough to have your school board meddling in curriculum decisions, particularly when their meddling forces you to present pseudoscience to your students as if it were legitimate science. However, the abuse does not end there. The board also voted 4-0 to require that teachers make an annual presentation on how they are teaching the class in order to demonstrate that they aren’t skewing the lessons with their “liberal” biases (see Los Alamitos Patch). This will be the only course in the district in which teachers must prove they are providing politically balanced lessons.