A "Cultural Fix"?: Global Citizen Educators Rethinking Sustainability into Population Control vs. Academic Freedom by Adam Baldwin 18 May 2009 post a comment Share This: "There's an actual statistic that 99% of all scientists agree that humans are exacerbating global climate change... I am totally open to varying viewpoints, but [‘human-caused global climate change'] is one that's no longer a debate." -- Benjamin Kay, 5/7/09 With that viewpoint, Santa Monica High School science teacher Benjamin Kay may actually be on to something. The question is, what? On Thursday evening, May 7, 2009, Mr. Kay offered his students "Extra Credit" for accompanying him to a presentation at the Santa Monica Public Library given by Adina Abeles, Planning Director of the Center of Ocean Solutions. During the hour-long power-point lecture Mr. Kay & Ms. Abeles, while claiming to be "objective," asserted opinions to the students as scientific fact on several provocative, controversial political issues: [youtube 3sVajzK0HoE nolink] -- Does that answer the question? Mr. Kay & Co. instruct: "Go to NPR, type in ‘global climate change' and listen to the last, say, 100 talks... if you want your varying viewpoints, go find the skeptics and find out who they're in bed with." A cursory Google-search of NPR finds that petard decisively hoisted by high school student Kristen Byrnes -- who now becomes Mr. Kay's "Worst Nightmare..." Kay summarily rejects all climate change skeptics in conflict with his vision by concluding: "...the people who are backing the skepticism about global climate change are all funded by the petro-chemical industry." Ms. Abeles concurs, dismissing skeptics as pawns in a: "...huge media campaign against this fact of climate change, and it really confused people in the U.S. ... whereas, in other parts of the world they're not as confused as the general public in the U.S." Kristin Byrnes, along with countless others, would no doubt strongly disagree and gladly debate those bold allegations for the students at SAMOHI. (Perhaps Mr. Kay could invite Ms. Byrnes et al. to do just that). While asserting opinion as fact in a political context can be expected, mischaracterizing the context of the broader debate (in order to inculcate personal political/religious values) is inappropriate, unethical and, in some cases, even unlawful -- especially when luring students with the promise of improved science grades. As any professional scientist should be well aware, all scientific theories -- including anthropogenic climate change (a.k.a., AGW) -- remain open to new evidence and, therefore, skeptical scientific debate, e.g., Miss Byrnes, these 700 international scientists and this NIPCC report. Mr. Kay, in the guise of Team Marine "coach," has made a practice of exploiting his SAMOHI classroom as a campaign headquarter to recruit students into helping him advocate for his pet political ("Whole Earth Wise Generation"-type) projects. Ironically, his true cause is unearthed when he leads his students to recite "Green Freak" mantras like, "Global warming is more of an ethical problem than an environmental problem." A perfect example of Mr. Kay's motives is illustrated by an actual assignment he emailed (via the District's server) to his students: Fuel Assignment (20pts): Visit http://thefuelfilm.com/videos http://thefuelfilm.com/videos> and watch each of the videos by clicking on each individual one. For each video clip, write a 2-3 sentence summary that captures the main idea and includes specific facts from both the video clip and from your general knowledge about the film. Use lined paper or reused paper for this assignment (DO NOT TYPE IT). On your paper, write down the title of each video clip and the write your summary just underneath the title. EX: "Clip 1 Title" [summary] "Clip 2 Title"[summary] "Clip 3 Title" [summary] etc.... THIS IS DUE TUESDAY, not tomorrow....you have two nights :) Good Luck and Have Fun, Mr Kay In order to receive his 20 points, Mr. Kay required his students to view and summarize not excerpts from a Marine Biology/science film but, instead, one-sided clips from an overtly political movie -- the makers of which he'd earlier in the year co-hosted as unchallenged lecturers on the SAMOHI campus for student assembly during school hours. California Education Code (e.g., Sec. 7054, 51550, 51510, 51511, 60044, 60045) as administered by SM-MUSD policy/regulations (e.g., 1330; 1165; 4040; 6144; 6161) aligns with the Academic Freedom Article XXXI in Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association's current contract, forbidding such practices: It is the policy of the District that all instruction shall be fair, accurate, objective, relevant to prescribed course content... Unit members may introduce relevant political, religious or other controversial material... but shall not attempt to indoctrinate students with the teacher's own personal, political or religious views. Most alarming are Kay/Abeles' pronouncements asserted under the controversial political euphemism ‘Sustainability' - [also here]. In union with their "Global Citizen" belief system/creed, one of their main "solutions" to the man-caused disaster of global climate change mutates, echoing Paul Erlich's "Bomb," into the control of "population growth." As Ms. Abeles stated: "We have to be smart about how we're going to grow as a global community," and, "One big thing you can do is a lot of education for women, and the data's pretty clear that when women are more educated and understand options you have fewer children and you have children later." On the question of enforcement, Mr. Kay injects a re-education solution: "What we really need is a cultural ‘fix'... so long as we have family counseling institutions and education in school, things that tell women and guys that a family of two is good, that's better for world population." Mr. Kay (who is not a parent) plants the intolerant seed in his students' captivated young minds that discrimination against larger families' extra children is profitable because he views their burden of existence on society as irresponsible and contributes to the sort of "over-consumption" that is "killing the planet." Would that standard apply with equality under the District's social justice vision statement clause to his fellow SM-MCTA members, especially John Muir Elementary School teacher Joseph Ramirez's "growing family?" Dispute or not the liberating intolerance of Kay & Abeles' "Global Citizenship"/"Sustainability" creed as you see fit, but consider: The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is, at its highest levels, aware of the non-compliant activities of Mr. Kay, and other staff members. Is it right that the District only selectively complies with State Education Code? Is it right for the SM-MUSD administration to consider as optional the practice and enforcement of its own board of education regulations? Is that an acceptable way for our increasingly scarce public education dollars to be spent? SM-MUSD is currently embarking on a once-in-a-generation process of reviewing and updating all its policies, administrative regulations, and related exhibits. What better opportunity could arise for parents and interested members of the public to comment, craft and help implement an Academic Freedom regime to serve and protect students? Can we not all agree in policy and practice that: Our Public schools are educational institutions, not a religion, anti-religion or political party. A school District's resources and educational authority should be used to further learning and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, not to indoctrinate students in partisan political/religious ideologies. While it is the responsibility of Parents/Guardians to inculcate the values of their individual family's creed upon their children, It is the job of public school educators to teach their students critical thinking skills, logic and reason within the intellectual parameters of their course of study - to teach them how to think, not what to think. Does that answer the question? UPDATE: Video link fixed. Adam Baldwin is a proud parent of more than two children, and has been an active and concerned member of the SM-MUSD community for more than sixteen years. His other credits include film and television work spanning thirty years.