Last month, Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma all introduced bills that would make teaching about climate change in public schools less a science and more a political debate. The bills — based on model legislation from the supremely evil American Legislative Exchange Council — would require schools to teach that climate change is “controversial” and not widely accepted scientific fact.
In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states [-- Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas] …
ALEC’s “model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key — though far from the only — vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda in the states.
The bills use almost the exact same language. Oklahoma’s, for example, calls for …
… the teaching of “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” including of global warming, saying it’s a theory steeped in “controversy” — not that the actual scientific record thinks so.
This is necessary, the bill states, “to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens,” going on to explain that it’s important to explore “differences of opinion on scientific issues.”
In a way, these kinds of laws seem like a last-ditch effort by desperate and backward-thinking plutocrats who are terrified of science and of broad public access to information via new technologies. Not that it makes them any less horrifying.
Teaching climate change not as “science” but as a debatable concept would make our public education system a polarized knowledge-free vacuum — kind of like Congress. And that is truly scary.