They’re Coming for Your Children. Deniers Bring “Alternative Facts” to Education

April 27, 2017


Legislation proposed across the country since Donald Trump’s election threatens to bring climate change denial into the classroom under the guise of “academic freedom.”

Currently, six states have legislative measures pending or already on the books that would allow anti-science rhetoric, including the rejection of global warming, to seep its way into schools’ curricula. While these types of proposals have become fairly routine in certain states, some of the most recent crop have advanced farther than in the past.

Senate Bill 393 in Oklahoma, for example, would permit teachers to paint established science on both evolution and climate change as “controversial.” The “controversy,” however, doesn’t really exist — more than 97 percent of actively publishing, accredited climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are directly attributable to human activity. And some teachers might already be misleading students.

Since its initial proposal in early February, the bill passed out of the Senate and into the House, where it circumvented the House Education Committee and now heads for a full House vote.

“It’s important to note that this exact bill in Oklahoma has been proposed in the past seven times, and it’s only this year, at a time when there’s federal policy that’s egregiously anti-science, that the bill made it so far,” said Lisa Hoyos, the director of Climate Parents, a Sierra Club–affiliated organization that supports climate change education. In fact, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Josh Brecheen, has introduced similar legislation every year since 2011. He’s said he wants “every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution.”

A bill similar to Oklahoma’s is currently working its way through the Texas Legislature. And Florida has two bills pending aimed at letting local residents object to the use of certain instructional materials, such as textbooks that teach human-induced climate change, in public schools.

The Heartland Institute, famous for misinforming on the Health effects of cigarettes, and the bogus science of climate denial, is now pushing climate misinformation out to hundreds of thousands of public school teachers across the country.

Today’s New York Times has a piece by Curt Stager describing the most recent well-funded initiative from the Heartland Institute, a mailing to hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country.


The cover letter inside, however, made the book’s premise clear. “Claims of a ‘scientific consensus’ ” on climate change, it read, “rest on two college student papers, the writings of a wacky Australian blogger, and a non-peer-reviewed essay by a socialist historian.” In fact, multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.

For example, a study in 2010 found that 97 percent of the 200 most-published authors of climate-related papers held the consensus position, and a survey in 2013 of 4,014 abstracts of peer-reviewed climate papers found 97 percent agreement. The Heartland-distributed book disputes the methods used in these and similar surveys but provides no definitive counterarguments against the overall weight of evidence. The fact is that survey after survey, involving multiple approaches and authors, finds a strong consensus among scientists who are most knowledgeable about climate change.

Not a surprise to me, as, when I attended the Heartland “science” Conference in 2012, I sat thru a lecture where former astronaut “Jack” Schmitt expressed support for education bills passed in Tennessee and Louisiana, which essentially allow schools to teach creationist tracts as part of the science curriculum – see above.

PBS Frontline:

Twenty-five thousand science teachers opened their mailboxes this month and found a package from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.

It contained the organization’s book “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” as well as a DVD rejecting the human role in climate change and arguing instead that rising temperatures have been caused primarily by natural phenomena. The material will be sent to an additional 25,000 teachers every two weeks until every public-school science teacher in the nation has a copy, Heartland president and CEO Joseph Bast said in an interview last week. If so, the campaign would reach more than 200,000 K-12 science teachers.

Accompanying the materials is a cover letter from Lennie Jarratt, project manager of Heartland’s Center for Transforming Education. He asks teachers to “consider the possibility” that the science is not settled. “If that’s the case, then students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists,” he writes. The letter also points teachers to an online guide to using the DVD in their classrooms.

The Heartland initiative dismisses multiple studies showing scientists are in near unanimous agreement that humans are changing the climate. Even if human activity is contributing to climate change, the book argues, it “would probably not be harmful, because many areas of the world would benefit from or adjust to climate change.”

National Center for Science Education:

But science teachers generally don’t like to be taken for fools. Judging from the reactions we’ve seen, the most common response to the mailing is a visit to the recycling bin. (And the DVD? One ingenious teacher reports making “a table-top hovercraft” out of it!) A few teachers took advantage of the enclosed response card to take Heartland to task (with references to the “alternative facts” on offer not uncommon). And a few enterprising teachers have taken the opportunity for a teachable moment with their classes on the nature of propaganda, reveling in the jiu-jitsu irony of using the efforts of the enemies of science education against them.

Heartland is an equal opportunity whore, of course – in addition to shilling for oil companies and creationist wack jobs, Heartland CEO Joe Bast has famously, and for many years, touted the safety of tobacco smoking, as this 1998 op-ed shows – below.




4 Responses to “They’re Coming for Your Children. Deniers Bring “Alternative Facts” to Education”

  1. Karl Wirth Says:

    OK, then. Lets also teach kids that refined sugar in the diet does a body good, and that claims regarding any negative health effects are controversial.

  2. H. Joe Witte Says:

    Sent from my iPad


  3. webej Says:

    Do they offer to send you stuff for free if you are interested? It might be a good tactic to fake interest and order tons of stuff.

    I particularly like the “vibrant” debate. Whenever that word comes around the corner, you know you are in for a royal dump of hypocrisy and disingenuity. A “vibrant” community (ethnic strife), a “vibrant” political culture (permanent instability), a “vibrant session” (lots of cross talk). Reminds me of the the guy at the beginning of a hiking trail asking if the scenery was “dynamic”. I should have said: “O yeah, those peaks are a truly vibrant sight.”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      It might be a good tactic to fake interest and order tons of stuff? Yep, that IS a good tactic, and if Heartland or any other right-wing lie tank sends you a mailing with a postage paid return envelope, be sure to stuff it with junk mail and send it back—-I did that for years with the Heritage Foundation—-probably cost them a couple of bucks each time, and made me feel good to know that.

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