A recent article on Think Progress, “Attacks on Science Education Intensify: ‘There Seems to be a Lynch-Mob Hate Against Any Teacher Trying to Teach Climate Change,’” by Chris Mooney, hit home for me since I am a science educator. The whole article is worth checking out, but here’s an excerpt:
“We’re talking about outright climate denial being fed to students—and accurate climate science teaching being attacked by aggressive Tea Party-style ideologues.”
Let me first say that I have never, ever experienced “lynch-mob hate” from a parent, administrator, colleague, or anyone else. I’ve never had anyone challenge what I teach about climate change, or about any other “controversial” topic like evolution, and I think I know why.
Blue and Green
Connecticut is a largely Democratic state, and the majority of people here are liberal. Even the Republicans I know (myself included!) are pretty liberal. Our state was recently designated “green” in a map of “Where States Stand: Environmental Stewardship” based on research conducted by the Pew Center for the States and the Rockefeller Foundation. People here not only tend to accept that the climate is changing, they are also taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
Frameworks and Resources
When I write lesson plans, I’m not just pulling things out of thin air or making them up. For my environmental science classes, the curriculum is prescribed by the College Board. There are specific guidelines for teaching about Energy and Climate Change. In addition, our state Core Science Curriculum Frameworks include climate change. To enrich the curriculum, I pull from outside resources including current text books and websites like The Environmental Literacy Council, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and Mauna Loa Observatory. The best scientists and educators put these materials together. I’m not making this stuff up.
Inquiry and Critical Thinking
Finally, I think a big part of the reason why I’ve never been challenged is due to my philosophy of education. I’m not dictator in my classroom. I present data. I assign readings. I share information. Then, my students are encouraged to analyze the information and draw their own conclusions. I welcome students to question the texts and the data, question the motivation of the scientists and politicians, search for more information outside of what I share, read more articles, watch documentaries. That tells me they’re thinking and learning!
One of the most important points in Mooney’s article is that science and emotion shouldn’t mix. I agree that students should know that our emotions do not play into our understanding of scientific knowledge. For example, just because I really like Pluto doesn’t change the fact that it is no longer considered a planet. Along the same vein, just because I really like all the luxuries that fossil fuels allow me to have doesn’t mean that climate change is not happening. Just because I don’t want the climate to change doesn’t mean that it isn’t changing.
We are emotional beings and it is very difficult for us to separate our emotions from the data. However, we need to draw conclusions objectively. Once we understand the data and the ramifications, I think our emotions are important. I personally am frightened of a possible future with climate change, and that’s what spurs me to action.
If you’re concerned about the environment, please join the Moms Clean Air Force in our fight to strengthen pollution regulations and protect our children’s health and future.