Man-Made Climate Change Debate Hits the Classroom

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According to the Los Angeles Times, some states are requiring public school science teachers to teach both sides of the climate change debate. Here are the details.

* Texas and Louisiana have education standards requiring teachers to view climate change denial as "a valid scientific position," the Los Angeles Times reports, and Tennessee and Oklahoma have introduced legislation permitting the instruction of climate change skepticism. South Dakota and Utah have resolutions denying climate change.

* According to an August survey by Science Magazine involving 800 members of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, climate change was second only to evolution as the concept most likely to be protested by parents and school administrators.

* Last spring, the New York Times reported three advocacy groups -- Rethinking Schools, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth -- targeted school publisher Scholastic for distributing fourth-grade curriculum materials that were sponsored by the American Coal Foundation. The groups said the "United States of Energy" curriculum failed to instruct students on coal's "negative effects on the environment and human health," the article stated. Scholastic agreed to pull the material.

* In November, the National Science Teachers Association released the results of an online poll in which 82 percent of science teachers responding stated they had faced skepticism about climate change and climate change from their students; 54 percent had faced skepticism from parents and a little more than one-quarter said they had faced skepticism from school administrators.

* The National Center for Science Education reminded science teachers that climate change is a matter of social controversy but not scientific controversy. "Science teachers have a responsibility to help their students understand, to the extent appropriate, the central methods and results of contemporary science," the Center wrote, stating 97 percent of scientists who have published peer-reviewed articles on climate change believe humans have caused most of the increase in global temperature over the last 150 years. The Center goes on to state that teachers should not misrepresent scientific consensus by "presenting the other side as though it were scientifically credible."

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