My thinking was that the book had been dropped there by a parent, colleague or community member who was opposed to my argument that teaching science had become a form of political bloodsport.
But the truth is that my book came from a far scarier source: It was sent to me directly by the Heartland Institute — a group heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry that actively questions climate science.
And what’s even scarier is that the Heartland Institute has just started a campaign to send a copy of this book to EVERY science teacher America’s public schools.
The authors of the book and the leaders of the Heartland Institute want teachers to “consider the possibility” that climate science is not settled, which is simply not true. They also argue that even if human activity is causing climate change, it “would probably not be harmful, because many areas of the world would benefit from or adjust to climate change.”
Now I know what you are thinking: Why are you still writing about this, Bill? We want you to point us to some really great tech tools or to share a few free lessons with us. We don’t want political mumbo-jumbo about climate science.
Here’s why I’m still writing about it: If you are a teacher or a school leader in a public school in America, these books are going to start to roll through your schoolhouse doors en masse over the next few weeks.
Some of your teachers will see right through the title and chuck their copy straight into the trash where it belongs. But some will fail to fact check the source and fall for the fake science that fills its pages. Then, they will start pushing the flawed notion that the science around climate change really isn’t settled yet to the kids sitting in your classrooms.
That ought to concern everyone in Radical Nation. As my buddy Joe Henderson — who has learned a ton on this issue from his colleague Randall Curran — pointed out to me recently:
“1. A sound climate science education is so basic for understanding the world we live in that students are entitled to it.
2. Such an education is also a fundamental aspect of civic education, because it is foundational to the most consequential collective decision humanity has ever faced.”
So what should your next steps be?
If you are a principal, my argument is that these books should never make it into the mailboxes of your classroom teachers. Find them and filter them out. Can you REALLY defend a decision to place a piece of political propaganda from a group funded by the fossil fuel industry in front of the people who are supposed to be educating the kids in your classrooms?
If you are not comfortable with filtering mail sent to your teachers, AT LEAST point your teachers to this PBS article detailing the Heartland Institute’s efforts or to my recent bit teasing out the truth about just who Heartland is. While teachers should do this leg work on their own whether you provide them with context or not, the truth is that we are flat slammed with tasks to complete in any given day, so falling for pseudo-science that lands in our mailboxes is more common than you might think.
And if you aren’t comfortable getting involved, AT LEAST make sure that the people in your district who are responsible for science instruction and curricular decisions are aware of what’s going on. My guess is that they will want to send out some kind of “Heads Up” email that reminds teachers of just what your curricula says about teaching climate change and/or start a conversation with department chairs about how to address these new books popping up on campuses across your county.
Whatever you do, do something. We can’t just ignore a paid political attempt to influence the thinking of thousands of teachers around the most important issue facing our planet.
Related Radical Reads: