Home > Uncategorized > When it Comes to the Climate Change, Science Doesn’t “Take Sides”

When it Comes to the Climate Change, Science Doesn’t “Take Sides”

February 13, 2016

The NYTimes was among many news outlets that published articles covering a recent report issued by the National Center for Science Education, who surveyed 1,500 teachers from high schools and middle schools in all 50 states on the way they approach the teaching of climate change… and the news was distressing. According to the study, as John Schwartz reported in his lead paragraph:

Most science teachers in the United States spend some time on climate change in their courses, but their insufficient grasp of the science as well as political factors “may hinder effective teaching,” according to a nationwide survey of the profession.

When those conducting the survey probed to determine the “political factors” that might “hinder effective teaching” here’s what they found:

Close to a third of the teachers also reported conveying messages that are contradictory, emphasizing the scientific consensus on human causation and the idea that many scientists believe the changes have natural causes.

The authors of the paper suggested that those teachers “may wish to teach ‘both sides’ to accommodate values and perspectives that students bring to the classroom.” The survey also found, however, that only 4.4 percent of teachers said that they had faced overt pressure from parents, school administrators or the community to teach about climate change.

While it is heartening to see that less than 5% of those surveyed “faced overt pressure” to teach about climate change, it is distressing to read that one third of the teachers essentially fail to report that climate change is settled science. There are not “two sides” to climate change any more than there are “two sides” to evolution or Einstein’s Laws of Relativity. But the most disheartening piece of information about the instruction of climate science was this paragraph:

Climate change is still not often part of a formal curriculum, so the instruction in one year rarely can add to the previous year’s work, Professor Plutzer added. And teachers feel pressured to focus more intensely on topics that appear on “high-stakes tests” that define much of today’s educational process, he said.

Clearly our priorities are skewed when we need to push climate change out of the classroom so that test scores can climb… along with the temperatures…

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