Trouble Maker of the Year: Zack Kopplin
March 7, 2013
Climate Deniers and Creationists are anti-science comrades in arms. The very same laws that climate deniers have been pushing to suppress climate science (also known as “science”) in public schools, are designed to impose theistic dogma on students as well. Zack Kopplin is a 19 year old college student who has been pushing back against the creationist tide in the south, since he was in high school.
Meanwhile, science educators are being given new tools and programs to make earth’s climate a larger part of the school curriculum.
New national science standards that make the teaching of global warming part of the public school curriculum are slated to be released this month, potentially curtailing climate skepticism in the nation’s classrooms.
The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve and more than two dozen states. They recommend that educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school and incorporate it into all science classes, ranging from earth science to chemistry. By eighth grade, students should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming),” the standards say.
They’re “revolutionary,” said Mark McCaffrey, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit that defends evolution and climate education and opposes the teaching of religious views as science.
The 26 states that helped write the standards are expected to adopt them. Another 15 or so have indicated they may accept them—meaning climate change instruction could make its way into classrooms in 40-plus states.
James Taylor, a senior fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute, which is developing a school curriculum that promotes climate skepticism, said the standards’ stance on climate change is based on “unscientific speculation and hype.” But he also said the group has no plans to fight their adoption by the states.
Many teachers have been skipping the subject altogether to avoid confrontations with conservative administrators or parents. Others teach it as a controversial theory, either because they don’t understand the evidence for global warming or because they reject it, educators told InsideClimate News.
In more than a dozen states, “academic freedom bills” have been introduced to mandate the teaching of dissenting views on global warming. Some of them have passed, bolstered by conservative groups that oppose efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. These groups have also developed teaching materials that challenge the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change.
According to strategy documents leaked last year, the Heartland Institute is spending $200,000 to develop K-12 curriculum designed to question the accepted science that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and to cast doubt on the reliability of climate change models. The curriculum is being written by David Wojick, a consultant who has authored dozens of articles, editorials and reports that promote skepticism about global warming.
These efforts to foster climate skepticism among today’s youth could have lasting impacts on our ability to address global warming, said Frank Niepold, the climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Climate is a topic that generations to come will have to deal with,” said Niepold. “Students today will have to be skillful and knowledgeable about the topic to be able to address the challenges it will present. If we don’t educate them now, chances are we never will.”