May 24, 2016
“We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.”
by Taylor Sperry
Teachers in Portland’s public schools will “abandon the use of any adopted text or material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities,” according to the Resolution to Develop an Implementation Plan for Climate Literacy that the Portland Public Schools board passed unanimously last week.
While some have interpreted this as “a book-burning campaign,” the argument from Portland’s educators is that the “science is clear, so textbooks should be, too.”
Writing in the Portland Tribune, Shasta Kearns Moore reports that Bill Bigelow, curriculum editor at Rethinking Schools magazine and a former Portland public school teacher, is especially wary of corporate influence. “A lot of the text materials are kind of thick with the language of doubt, and obviously the science says otherwise,” he said. “We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.”
In his testimony before the school board, Bigelow read aloud from the Pearson textbook Physical Science, which indicates that fossil fuel emissions “may contribute to global warming (emphasis added)”—a suggestion the educator noted “could be written by the Exxon public relations department.”
The text of the resolution itself emphasizes the “overwhelming consensus in the scientific community” and school districts’ responsibility “to redefine what it means to educate students for a future of certain climate change.”
“It is essential,” the resolution reads, “that in their classes and other school activities students probe the causes and consequences of the climate crisis—as well as possible solutions—in developmentally appropriate ways, and, from pre-K through 12th grade, become ‘climate literate’ . . .”
Presumably, the new standards will go into effect next year.
Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.