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'Climate Deniers' Follow 'Creationists' to Undermine Public Education

- Common Dreams staff

The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch brothers, Microsoft, and other top corporations, is planning to develop a “global warming curriculum” for elementary schoolchildren that presents climate science as “a major scientific controversy,” according to a report by Think Progress.

Today's report reads in part:

[The Heartland Institute's] effort, at a cost of $100,000 a year, will be developed by Dr. David E. Wojick, a coal-industry consultant.

“Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” Heartland’s confidential 2012 fundraising document bemoans. The group believes that Wojick’s project has “potential for great success,” because he has “contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved in producing, certifying, and promoting scientific curricula.” The document explains that Wojick will produce “modules” that promote the conspiratorial claim that climate change is “controversial” [...]

Wojick will receive $25,000 per module, with four modules produced a year. Wojick, who manages the Climate Change Debate listserv, is not a climate scientist. His doctorate is in epistomology.

The Heartland Institute also runs the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, a conspiracy-theorist parody of the Nobel-prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Heartland’s NIPCC project “pays a team of scientists approximately $300,000 a year to work on a series of editions of Climate Change Reconsidered.” Their climate-denial work is funded anonymously.

The full excerpt from the Heartland document:

Though troubling to both advocates of quality education and those concerned with the increasingly destructive impact of global warming and climate change, the Heartland's plans are hardly surprising. In fact, they follow a troubling trend among rightwing think tanks and the conservative movement to undermine education by generating and then inserting invented scientific controversy into public school curricula.

The battle to introduce 'creationist' curricula has been a perennial battle throughout the United States for Christian evangelicals, and now many in the "climate denial" industry have adopted similar methods to push their ideology in schools. As author and journalist, Katherine Stewart, wrote recently at The Guardian:

The convergence here is, to some degree, cultural. It just so happens that the people who don't like evolution are often the same ones who don't want to hear about climate change. It is also the case that the rhetoric of the two struggles is remarkably similar – everything is a "theory", and we should "teach the controversy". But we also cannot overlook the fact is that there is a lot more money at stake in the climate science debate than in the evolution wars. Match those resources with the passions aroused by evolution, and we may have a new force to be reckoned with in the classroom.

She also writes, citing specific legislation in Oklahoma and other states, that there are aspects of this new trend that make the "same old story more interesting than usual."

One has to do with the temperature in a less metaphorical sense. The Oklahoma bill isn't properly speaking just an "anti-evolution" bill; it is just as opposed to the "theory" of "global warming". A bill pending in Tennessee likewise targets "global warming" alongside "biological evolution". These and other bills aim their rhetoric at "scientific controversies" in plural, and one of the New Hampshire bills does not even bother to specify which controversies it has in mind. [...]

The other significant twist has to do with the fact that the new anti-evolution – make that anti-science – bills are emerging in the context of the most vigorous assault on public education in recent history. In Oklahoma, for example, while Senator Brecheen fights the forces of evolution and materialism, the funding for schools is being cut, educational attainments are falling, and conservative leaders are agitating for school voucher systems, which, in the name of "choice", would divert money from public schools to private schools – many of them religious. The sponsor of Indiana's anti-science bill, Dennis Kruse, who happens to be chairman of the Senate education committee, is also fighting the two battles at once.

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