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How ALEC is Destroying the Teaching of Climate Change Science, One State at a Time

Tennessee just became the fourth state in the nation to include climate change denial in their science education curriculum. Who's behind this crafty legislation? You guessed it.
 
 
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The month of March has seen unprecedented heat and temperatures. A rational thinking, scientifically-grounded individual could only posit, "Well, hmm, I bet climate change has something to do with the fact that in Madison, WI, it is 80 degrees in mid-March. Sometimes it's 60 or 70 degrees colder than this!"

While that individual would be positing something that is the well-accepted scientific consensus, in some states, under law, that is only a "controversial theory among other theories."

Welcome to Tennessee, which on March 19th became the fourth state with a legal mandate to incorporate climate change denial as part of the science education curriculum when discussing climate change.

First it was Louisiana, back in 2009, then Texas in 2009, South Dakota in 2010 and now Tennessee has joined the club, bringing the total to four U.S. states that have mandated climate change denial in K-12 "science" education. 

Many other states could follow in their footsteps as well, given that, as DeSmogBlog exposed in late-January, this is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill, a near miror image of its Orwellian-titled "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act."[PDF]

The machinations of ALEC are best explained by the Center for Media and Demoracy's " ALEC Exposed" project.

The ALEC bill passed as H.B. 368 and S.B. 893, with 70-23 and 24-8 roll call votes, respectively. Tennesse Republican Governor Bill Haslam is likely to sign the bill into law soon.

The ALEC Model Bill

As DeSmogBlog reported in January, the Tennessee bill is based on an ALEC model bill passed in May 2000. We explained at the time,

"The bill's opening clause reads [PDF], 'The purpose of this act is to enhance and improve the environmental literacy of students and citizens in the state by requiring that all environmental education programs and activities conducted by schools, universities, and agencies shall…'

  • Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner.
  • Provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific and economic controversies.
  • Be presented in language appropriate for education rather than for propagandizing.
  • Encourage students to explore different perspectives and form their own opinions.
  • Encourage an atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas.
  • Not be designed to change student behavior, attitudes or values.
  • Not include instruction in political action skills nor encourage political action activities."

To summarize, under this model bill and its relatives, global warming will be taught as a "theory" among other "credible theories," including those unscientific "theories" peddled by the well-paid " merchants of doubt." 

This, of course, flies in the face of the well-accepted scientific consensus, which has proven global warming as the harsh reality, time and time again. The science speaks for itself, and the fossil fuel money funding climate change deniers speaks for itself.  

The Tennessee Bill

Key portions of the Tennessee bills are as follows (emphases mine):

  • "The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to,biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and humancloning, can cause controversy."
  • "The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to…respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."
  • Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."

Look familar? It should.