Diversity of opinion seems to be under threat in schools across the country—especially at colleges and universities. But a new study published in the journal Science should give parents reason for hope that, at least in middle school and high school, many teachers are presenting both sides of one highly controversial issue—man-made climate change.
The study, entitled “Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers,” approaches the issue from a slant. As Liana Heitin put it on the website Education Week:
The study authors write that more than 95 percent of climate scientists attribute global warming to human causes, and yet teachers are conveying mixed messages about this to students.
Looking at a nationally representative sample of 1,500 middle and high school science teachers, the researchers found that three-quarters of educators were devoting at least an hour of classroom discussion to global warming. However, 30 percent of teachers said they emphasize that global warming “is likely due to natural causes”—in direct contrast to the scientific concensus. Twelve percent do not emphasize human impact—with half of that group avoiding the cause by offering no explanation at all.
And nearly a third of teachers report “sending explicitly contradictory messages,” pointing out both what most scientists say about human impact and telling students that many scientists believe the rise in temperature is due to natural causes.
Given the repeated unreliability of climate models and the basic scientific premise that there is no established dogma which cannot be challenged by new evidence, it seems alarming that only 30 percent of teachers present a view that challenges “the scientific consensus.” There is reason to doubt the claim that 97 percent of scientists agree on man-made climate change, and S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, estimated that around 40 percent of scientists are skeptical themselves.
If the 97 percent “consensus” among scientists is accurate, this study shows that middle school and high school teachers are actually more open to new ideas than scientists themselves. Their skepticism and willingness to present both sides of this complex issue should help children become open minded and learn to question a received “consensus.”
After all, more than 97 percent of scientists once believed the Earth revolved around the sun—then came Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei. Open-minded teachers who present both sides (even if they believe in man-made climate change) can help your children grow up to be Copernicus and Galileo.