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Changing the climate in classrooms

November 24, 2011 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 07:57 AM

I'm going to get in trouble with my handlers for today's posting, but I think this Frontier Centre article is very important, and I suggest you read every word. Whether or not you think that global warming is real and caused by human activity, you surely have to admit that it's wrong for schools to present a one-sided view of a controversial issue like climate change. And the bigger issue, although only touched on in the article, is schools' tendency to promote a left-of-centre perspective on everything from politics to the economy to social activism to anti-globalization to the environment. It is especially important that a balanced presentation of controversial issues like these be provided in schools. After all, we're talking about a captive audience of impressionable youngsters made possible by compulsory school attendance.

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hmmm… What word am I looking for—propaganda, indoctrination?

Posted by Bev on 11/24 at 09:55 AM

I don’t think anyone in the public school system believes that it is a two sided issue. There is an overwhelming belief that this is “settled science” like evolution where a tiny group continues to protest but nobody really listens.

Every kid in the public system has seen “An Inconvenient Truth” by now. OSSTF bought DVDs for every school.

Posted by Doug on 11/24 at 10:04 AM

“Do you know what your child is learning in school? Do you know the curriculum or subjects and content used? Are you aware of the intellectual and political bias that permeates the schools? Are you aware that these biases extend into the universities? Are you aware how anti-business, anti-development, and anti-progress they are? All of this is happening under the guise of false green in an unbalanced education (indoctrination) system.”

Yes, very true, since I lost track of how many times I had to correct my youngest, pointing out the biases, and not showing the other side. A couple of years ago, my child came home, a holier-than-thou disciple on global warming, and within a couple of hours, she has a much more measured response on global warming, as well as the profiteering taking place where ever you hear the word green.

“Application of these views to environment and climate is problematic in curriculum planning. It is part of a larger conflict about inclusions in a core curriculum.  Everyone thinks their subject is core, but all students need are the tools provided by the three ?Rs?. Even that is a problem because only 20 percent of students are comfortable with ?Rithmatic?. Environment and climate require a level of scientific knowledge for understanding. Yet, in most schools both subjects are taught in social studies programs by people who don?t understand the basic science. As a result, all forms of teaching aids chosen are unbalanced and usually biased.”

Big problem in today’s curriculum, especially in the sciences and history, as well as in the maths. Not enough solid basic science being taught, that would enable students to ask the questions that would seriously put a end to the biases and the unbalance of knowledge being taught.

And no Doug, not every kid has been exposed to the Inconvenient Truth, but I have a kid, that would show your current biases in global warming, and point to other theories that would present a balance view of the facts, and perhaps let the air out of the profiteering made on over-priced green products. But than again, without a solid foundation on the basic science covering many aspects in all fields of science, it would be hard to turn you into a more balanced fellow, when it comes to global warming.

Once upon a time, my child thought of doing her science fair project on global warming. It was decided it was not worth the angst to present a project that seriously question the current global warming model, pinning it on basic climate, geology and earth science knowledge.

But the real issue, is the current biases and ideology found in today’s curriculum. The multi-facets not being presented on anything, including the social issues of the world, national, and the local areas. Once upon a time, it was taught to students that there is many facets to a topic, and not as it is done today, a narrow choice between two sides, or for the most part on one facet, out of many. Balance is not a policy within our institutions, but it should be.

Posted by Nancy on 11/24 at 11:38 AM

I agree, Malkin.  Too many subjects are presented as ‘fact’ and are dealt with in a one-sided fashion.

For example, just look at the trouble Jim Keegstra got into trying to teach the ‘other side’ of Nazism.  I’m sure that Warren Jeffs thinks that the schools are presenting a way too narrow view of polygamy, especially where 14 year old girls are concerned.  (Just to clarify - I am being sarcastic)

In the agrarian days, pre-industrial revolution, where people rarely wandered far from their little communities, it was alright to live in your own little world with your own peculiar ideas.  Fact is, we are now a modern, industrial, urban society where we have millions of people living in a city; we must have a certain amount of socialization.  Pockets of society will always find something to disagree with.  However, that doesn’t preclude the education system from trying to promote understanding, tolerance and a set of basic rules that everyone can live by.

Posted by Wayne Scott Ng on 11/24 at 02:20 PM

The public education system has a centre-left bias. Not exctly news.

Posted by Doug on 11/24 at 02:58 PM


Using a mouthpiece for the oil industry doesn’t lend a whole lot of credibility to your arguments either.

Tim Ball is ... “Retired - Professor of Geography, University of Winnepeg
Senior Scientific Advisor, Friends of Science Chairman and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP)

Tim Ball was a “scientific advisor” to the oil industry funded Friends of Science, an organization well known for its climate skepticism and politically charged attack ads. Ball is a member of the Board of Research Advisors of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Canadian free-market think tank which is also predominantly funded by foundations and corporations. Ball is also a writer for Tech Central Station, a climate denial website run by the PR firm DCI Group.

Tin Ball was a professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996. He is a prolific speaker and writer in the skeptical science community.”

This quote from:

Posted by Wayne Scott Ng on 11/24 at 04:48 PM

When you think about it, the whole concept of public education is a left-of-centre idea.

Posted by Stephen Hurley on 11/24 at 08:03 PM

actually public education is not “left of centre”

there is a curious mix, depending on the country;

among the motives a century and a half ago were
- educating for democracy (Jefferson and Horace Mann)
- c
“civilize” working class people and immigrants and make them less likely to rebel (England and Ontario)

the terms “left” and “:right” apply to fewer and fewer things today
(Christian evironmentalists and union tree cutters) and never applied much to the IDEA of public ed, though you can argue that certain curriculum ideas might fit
even here it is dicey
it was a conservative government that brought a high school multiculturalism course to Ontario
and a liberal one that cut it

as for the issue at hand
yes the climate change debate needs to be a full debate and BTW
‘there are MORE than two sides”

Posted by John Myers on 11/24 at 10:57 PM

Let me say that “John is not wrong” about the contradictions within the old political spectrum but it is premature and a little naive to abandon the construct at this stage when the Tea Party and Occupy movements are polarizing politics due to the financial crisis.

The origins of public education do stem from exactly where he says in Ontario. Nevertheless, attempts to privatize and the bend the public education system towards a servant of business come from the centre-right and the defence of public education from underfunding privatization and retention of the civics and personal development aspects come from the centre-left.

Seems to all depend on the mood of the centre which is like a leaf in the wind.

Posted by Doug on 11/25 at 10:12 AM

One problem with labels, in addition to the usual inaccuracy and stereotyping,
is that they cut off debate of complex things; i.e., they are anti-democratic

Posted by John Myers on 11/25 at 10:56 AM

The public education system and its structures are already corporated, under the same corporate models found anywhere in the private sector. It acts and behaves like private corporations, with the one exception, the revenues of the public education system are from the public purse, and have the ability to lock out their shareholders, the taxpayers at will. Using the public purse as the means, allows the system to choose their major shareholders, which are the arms of the education system, and private corporations dealing with education material, organizational, and technology.
Otherwise the individual taxpayers, students, and the small players are locked out, and entry into this closed shop, is in a highly politicized environment, specialized interests, and big money turned the gates or the doors of the education system.

Sitting from the bottom, one thing that the education system does not like, when one at the bottom skips the protocols and processes, and goes to the top of the education organization. An effective tactic to remember, because it works just as well in the private corporate sector.  Also, a better use of one’s time, and effort as well, since the processes within the education system are designed to stall, delay, any innovation and ideas deriving from the bottom rung of the education system.The controls are put on the bottom rung, so those within the education system, can dance their version of accountability and quality of what constitutes an education.

Posted by Nancy on 11/25 at 11:22 AM

The climate change skeptics are usually put in the same catagory as the “Intelligent Design” or anti-evolution camp. One is too hooked to religion, the other to the oil and gas industry.

Posted by Doug on 11/25 at 11:47 AM

Debate?  Sure - with openness and honesty. 

I wouldn’t, for example, expect to have an honest debate with the ‘scientists’ hired by the tobacco industry on the effects of smoking.  Of course, they would say that smoking does not cause cancer and point to their own junk science and the ‘facts’ that they have discovered.

Why use this analogy?  If any of you saw the Fifth Estate Episode “The Denial Machine” back in 2006, you would know that, “... companies such as Exxon Mobil are working with top public relations firms and using many of the same tactics and personnel as those employed by Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds to dispute the cigarette-cancer link in the 1990s.”  (quote from  To quote Bev, “What word am I looking for?propaganda, indoctrination?”

Furthermore, people who puff up their resume to sound better than they are always sound suspect.  Dr. Tim Ball describes himself as a Doctor of Climatology - a title that did not exist 30 years ago when he graduated from university.

Posted by Wayne Scott Ng on 11/25 at 03:21 PM

Neither would anyone have a honest debate with the public education system. especially on reading and math instruction. As for the PR departments of governments and unions, hired or in-house, education and health have some beauties that represents the best in ideology, dogma, and mouth pieces repeating the messages of the departments over and over, no matter if it is not true.

Posted by Nancy on 11/25 at 07:36 PM

So Nancy,

You are saying that because the ‘Blob’ has been known to lie, everyone else in the world now has a licence to lie?  Really helps students receive a better education.

Posted by Wayne Scott Ng on 11/25 at 08:29 PM

It is all about the manipulation of facts and information, based on the beliefs of the blob, rather than outright lies. I can say that the educrat of many years ago, was convince that my child was developmentally slow, based on his own dogma and belief system. He truly believed in this type of magically thinking, based on a certificate and his PHD in education administration. He truly believed that only certified teachers are only the ones to determined the education needs of students. In fact, the same educrat will still defend his stance, no matter what the outcome of my child is.

The educrat believes in the dogma of the edubabble, It is his faith, and for the educrat to admit he was wrong, to learn why he was wrong, is to walk away from his beliefs and faith. As a result, practices within the education system, truly do not developed and change over time, respecting the students and the best interests of the students. But rather the practices within the education system change and reflect the many different interests and agendas of those who work within , and always respecting the dogma, their faith.

Posted by Nancy on 11/26 at 12:08 PM

Anti-Indoctrination Laws For Schools Needed

When the Gore movie was massively being shown to British students in 2007 as ?truth? few objected. 

However, one parent took the matter to court, lost 60,000 pounds in expenses, but won considerable leverage on his issue that the film violated Britain?s School Act.

Section 406(1)(b) of the Education Act 1996 requires that local education authorities, school governing bodies and head teachers “shall forbid… the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school”.

The judgment said the film did promote “partisan political views” and teachers would have to inform pupils that there were other opinions on global warming and they should not necessarily accept the views of the film. However, the judge stated that “I will be declaring that, with the guidance as now amended, it will not be unlawful for the film to be shown.”

The judge ordered that thereafter whenever the movie was shown it was to be accompanied by guidance notes which were to explain that there were skeptics who did not accept the consensus reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and that all 9 demonstrated ?untruths? in the movie were to be made clear to students.  See these 9 and more information in Wikipedia

Concerning the ?WE? movement I am reminded of a small passage in Ayn Rand?s book, ?We the Living? just reissued again 75 years after first publication.  I can see why it is frequently mandated reading in secondary and postgraduate schools.

This is from a funeral oration for a fallen comrade who died from overwork (suicide).

?The Soviets are creating a new breed of men ? What, then, are the standards of our new humanity? The first and basic one is that we have lost a word from our language, the most dangerous, the most insidious, the most evil of human words ?I?. We have outgrown it. ?We? is the slogan of the future. The Collective stands in our hearts where the old monster — ?self? — had stood.? (pg 460)

What?s to be done?

Posted by Tunya Audain on 11/27 at 03:32 AM

A couple of comments on this conversation. First, I would hate to see the threat of lawsuit shut down good conversations in the classroom. I wouldn’t hesitate to assume that schools are the only place where many of our children have these issues discussed at all.

Truth is a thorny word and any scientist worth her weight will admit that what we think is true now may be discounted in the next ten years. That’s why the field is still populated! The purpose of science is not just to discover things we don’t already know, it is to constantly challenge the status of what we think we know.

Schools should be places where conversations about truth and knowledge take place. The questions that roll around in my mind have to do with at what age, and in what context conversations like these take place.

On the one hand teacher who has seen a film like “An Inconvenient Truth” or “Waiting for Superman” or any other compelling documentary needs to be very careful about bringing it in to class, holding it up and using it to support their view of the world.

But, if an educator is willing to do the work to place it in a proper context and interrogate the assumptions and claims along with students, then we get closer to the spirit of media literacy, questions about truth, perspective, and those other powerful concepts that can help to educate as opposed to just “school” our children.

But, as I’ve said before, it’s hard work, requires an openness on the part of the teacher, and a willingness to present more than one perspective.

The second comment I have has to do with the arts! The arts (I can sense some of you rolling your eyes) can go a long way to help students (and teachers) become more open, discerning and critical of what they see and hear. The arts help to nurture the creativity necessary to adopt more than one point-of-view, and the imagination necessary to see new possibilities. Quality arts education can move us out of our head and into the visceral, emotional part of our lives. Without the emotional attachment to what we are learning, we just remain in the world of “he says” and “she says”; too much ends up being said and not enough heard, or not enough felt.

I know that may seem a little off topic, but it’s where I’m living these days!

Posted by Stephen Hurley on 11/27 at 10:13 AM

Stephen, agree with you 100 per cent. Too many students are taught to accept, rather than to question and explore all facets. I never thought much of it, until I had to deal with my youngest child, and it all came home to roost.

Schools today, do not seem to encourage it, and when they do (it has been my observations) that the kids are sent off on wild goose chases, leading to dead ends, rather than leading to the different facets. The deeper knowledge that is needed to determine the truth based on the individual’s experience and knowledge.

According to the current experts, as humans we all reason with our emotions, and that to reason is not cold and calculated as it is thought in the current world of being human. Our emotions does lead us to our individual stances based on the subsets of knowledge and experience, and it is our emotions that lead us to change our stances based on increase knowledge and experience. It is why the studying of the arts, and in particular the elementary years, are important to promote the open, discerning and critical of what we see and hear. After all, a piece of art evokes emotion, that leads the individual to question the emotion and the reasons behind the emotions. Or the actual creating a piece of art, is guided by the emotions rather than deliberate thought and reason.

What is more important, the arts properly done, can improve the cognitive weaknesses of students especially in areas of improve hand writing. One would be amaze of the improvement in students, as I was, when I decided to teach my child, how to draw with shapes, and create interesting characters.

Posted by Nancy on 11/27 at 10:52 AM

Many subjects lend themselves to debate. Evolution and global warming can always be debated but with 95% of the experts on one side of each and the cred of the minority opponents in question, these may not be the best for debate.

Posted by Doug on 11/27 at 05:28 PM

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