May 21, 2012
By Lisa Palmer
For the Daily Climate
The battles over teaching climate change science in schools are diverse, myriad and, like teaching evolution, being fought mostly district by district, classroom by classroom.
Unlike evolution, climate change doesn't have a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring that teaching efforts be accurate.
Some recent conflicts around the nation:
Earlier this year the National Center for Science Education stepped into the climate arena, announcing it would apply techniques it honed in the evolution wars to defend and promote climate science education.
"It’s one thing to have climate in the standards and assessments, and another thing altogether to make sure the teachers are well prepared, are not teaching the debate, if they teach about climate change at all, and are using effective practices," said Mark McCaffrey, the center's program director.
The Oakland-based nonprofit's effort hit a snag in February after Peter Gleick, a prominent scientist recruited to help advise the organization's climate education effort, disclosed that he had improperly obtained internal strategy documents from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank. Gleick withdrew his nomination to the NCSE's board a few days before his term was scheduled to begin.
But the Heartland memos show that the institute, known for undermining climate science in political and scientific arenas, is working to influence climate education in schools, too. The budget memos Gleick obtained indicated the group had raised an initial $100,000 for a "global warming curriculum" designed by a part-time consultant at the Department of Energy.
The curriculum, designed for grades 10 through 12, according to the Heartland memos, would emphasize that climate change is a "major scientific controversy" and that models underlying the science are questionable.
Lisa Palmer is a freelance reporter in Maryland. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Nature Climate Change, Fortune, and The Yale Forum, among other outlets. DailyClimate.org is a foundation-funded news service that covers climate change.
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