Despite the unsettled science and evidence to the contrary, teachers without training or textbooks are giving lessons to U.S. public school students on the threat of manmade climate change.
An article from the Hechinger Report picked up by the Washington Post reports:
Teaching global warming in a charged political climate. … Their training doesn’t cover it and many textbooks don’t touch it but teachers are taking on climate change anyway.
Teachers are also grappling with how to get students "to understand the severity of climate change but at the same time leaving them hopeful," says Melissa Lau, a 6th grade science teacher in Oklahoma. Thanks to @washingtonpost for co-publishing https://t.co/dQQKvLSA8p
— Caroline Preston (@cpreston) July 7, 2019
The article focuses on a school in Oklahoma, where many students have parents who have good jobs in the flourishing oil and gas industry in the state, that promotes environmentalists’ belief that fossil fuels are the main culprit causing climate change.
Melissa Lau is a sixth-grade teacher in the classroom profiled in the reporter’s story, which was documented before the start of summer vacation. According to the report:
Ms. Lau, 42, has taught science for seven years at Piedmont Intermediate School, which is housed in an airy, modern building overlooking a wheat field and serves predominantly middle-class families, many of whom work in the oil and gas industry. For much of that time, she has sought to acquaint students with the basics of the planet’s warming.
On this next-to-last week of the school year, she was squeezing in a lesson exploring the link between increased carbon emissions and extreme weather events such as floods and hurricanes.
The article cites the “politics” in “ruby-red Oklahoma” and notes that teachers do get questions and “pushback” from parents over climate change lessons.
And it claims the oil and gas industry funds the promotion of fossil fuels in the schools and accuses lawmakers in the state of introducing legislation that “critics say would encourage teachers to spread misinformation on evolution and climate change.”
“Every year, we have to fight one or two bills,” said Lau, who was wearing a denim jacket and a “I teach climate change” button, according to the article. “I don’t get the resistance I got at the beginning of my career because it’s getting harder and harder to deny.”
On this particular day, the teacher showed the students a video that made an analogy between sports doping and climate change.
“Steroids can make it easier for players to hit home runs,” the video explained. “But it’s impossible to know if any single home run is due to doping.”
“So to assess the effects of the drugs, one has to observe a player’s performance over time. Same with climate change: Some extreme weather events occur regardless of whether humans are pumping extra carbon into the atmosphere.”
“Scientists can determine if these emissions are affecting the climate only by following patterns over time,” the video continued.
The article explains that in 2013, teaching climate change in schools got a “boost” when states could incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards into their curriculum, which includes introducing children to climate change and its human causes, starting in middle school.
“To date, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, and many other states have embraced a modified version,” the article says.
At least one science education advocate confirms the lack of training teachers have to teach climate change.
“Climate and earth sciences more generally have been historically neglected in American science education,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, a group devoted to tracking down “anti-science education legislation.”
“Lots of teachers feel they don’t have the content knowledge or pedagogical know-how to teach climate change effectively,” Branch said in the article.
And while Lau said she wants her students to have “hope” about the future, they sound less than hopeful in the article.
“Now that I know more about the facts of climate change, it’s a little bit easier to believe,” student Jewel Horn said. “It feels like more of a threat.”
“Now, I’m thinking that we’re in a crisis,” Horn’s classmate Dan Nguyen said, adding that he was a “little angry” because people “should be more careful of what they are doing, what they are using.”
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