January 27, 2012

Defending Climate Change at School

The National Center for Science Education has been defending the teaching of evolution since before Edwards vs. Aguillard, the 1987 Supreme Court decision that declared the teaching of creationism an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

With times changing, the NCSE is changing with them. Today, it's announcing that its support of students and educators will be broadened to include climate change.
"It's been a growing realization of ours that, just as teachers get hammered for teaching evolution, they also are getting hammered for teaching global warming and other climate change topics. They'll start talking about global warming and a student's hand will shoot up, 'teacher, my dad says global warming is a hoax.' We've had accounts where students would get up and walk out of the room."
The NCSE also heard about school boards that enacted policies that would dictate how things would be handled in the classrooms, and noticed the legislation we mentioned above. Scott said that all these events left the NCSE staff thinking "we really should look into this."
What they found were some clear parallels between evolution and climate science. Just as the controversy over evolution takes place within the public and not among scientists, Scott said, "There's not a debate going on within the science community about whether the climate is getting warm and whether people have a great deal to do with this." There were also parallels in terms of motivation. "The basis for antievolution is ideological," Scott said, pointing to its religious nature. "There's also an idealogical basis for anti-global warming, it just happens to be a political and economic ideology."
Eugenie C. Scott, the group's executive director, cited a rise in "creationist-like tactics being used in the attack on climate education."

Dr. Scott said national surveys of science teachers indicated that "one-third or more of their teachers have experienced some kind of push-back on the teaching of climate change" — everything from demands by education board members that climate change skeptics debate a climate scientist in class to objections by parents to the screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary about global climate change.
She said she anticipated that more such incidents would become known now that teachers have a central place to report them.

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