June 7, 2016

Climate change “might” be real; it “may” be caused by humans; it “could” be very bad.


"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken during the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972 (via Wikipedia)

The “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth, taken during by members of the Apollo 17 lunar mission On December 7, 1972. Via Wikipedia.

Last month, we reported on the Portland Public School Board’s decision to “abandon the use of any adopted text or material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its roots in human activities.”

Unsurprisingly, this decision has been interpreted by many on the Fox News side of things as yet further evidence of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy to indoctrinate, rather than educate, students. As one commenter claimed, “I have never seen a case for homeschooling more clearly put forward.”

Meanwhile, in slightly more equanimous quarters, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) released a statement last week saying, “For all its good intentions, the resolution raises serious concerns.”

These concerns are several. The resolution, the NCAC said, is “driven primarily by political pressure” (the policy, after all, results from years of lobbying by environmental groups), “unnecessary” (Oregon law already requires that classroom content match current scientific consensus), and “over-broad” (the new rules might make it impossible to teach students about dissenting opinions in the current debate over climate change). This last issue might be the most worrying: it lands Portland schools afoul of Oregon’s Social Sciences Academic Content Standards, under which students must “learn to assess the merits of competing arguments, and make reasoned decisions that include consideration of the values within alternative policy recommendations,” and so limits students’ ability to participate thoughtfully in what is (amazingly) “an ongoing debate” on the effects of climate change.

Right. Learning to question information is as important a part of a student’s life as learning to retain it.

The NCAC concludes, “Elected officials have an important role in ensuring the availability of an adequate education to all students; they should devote their energies to that worthy goal, and leave decisions about what and how to teach to the people who are trained to do it.”



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.