Koch-Funded Plan in Development to Teach K-12 Kids Global Warming isn’t Real

School wouldn't be worth a whole lot if we taught every fringe 'controversy.' (flickr | sidewalk flying)
Ah, the old ‘teach the controversy’ gambit. If there’s an easier, more cynical way of casting doubt on reality, I haven’t seen it yet!

Case in point: ThinkProgress Green says it has acquired documents that show the partly Koch and ExxonMobil-funded Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank, is working on developing a curriculum for K-12 schools intended to paint global warming as “a major scientific controversy” rather than the systematically-reached  conclusion of decades of peer review and careful research. (Update: the Heartland Institute has since issued an advisory claiming that the documents are ‘fake and stolen.’ Stay tuned.)

The curriculum will be developed by Dr. David E. Wojick, who has worked as a consultant for multiple coal interests and is an old hand at ‘making the case for uncertainty’ in climate science:

Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy“), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

This project would apparently cost about $100,000—chump change compared to the $8 million Koch Industries spent lobbying Congress in 2011. I guess even veterans of the science obfuscation game learn new tricks sometimes (though not all of ‘em work out).

Sadly, this isn’t a new wrinkle. Last year, a libertarian school board member pressured California’s Los Alamitos Unified School District to make sure a new environmental science class includes “multiple perspectives” on climate—namely, those that accuse scientists of being dogmatic worrywarts—and education experts (ahem) like Rush Limbaugh and Jim Hoft have made a habit of excoriating the so-called ‘junk science’ that informs environmental education in between reports on President Obama’s birth certificate.

These measures try to paint educators as, at best, irresponsible—at worst, bent on keeping kids from the truth. The implication that some contrarian curriculum is all it takes to set things right only adds insult to injury, and at a time when many students are struggling.

Any scientist would tell you that there’s a high bar for what is conclusive. But when the preponderance of legitimate climate scientists confirm that global warming is manmade and a threat to life on earth, can the remainder even be considered capable of controversy? Aren’t they more like the random guy on the metro with a theory about the moon landing being a hoax? Should we teach that one too?

(As an aside: I definitely do plan on picking up a ‘Teach the Controversy’ t-shirt soon.)

Take ActionIf you’d like to help America’s kids learn accurate, balanced environmental science, ask Congress to pass the No Child Left Inside Act, a bill to help states develop stronger K-12 environmental literacy programs.

For more information on environmental education, check out Eco-Schools USA’s Climate Change pathway on incorporating global warming education into the curriculum in a practical and instructive way. You can also see the Guidelines for Excellence developed by the North American Association for Environmental Education or the reworked  Framework for K-12 Science Education, from the National Academies’ Board on Science Education.