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Last year, Heartland mailed copies of Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming to most public school science teachers, professors of physical sciences, and national and state elected officials in the U.S. Some liberal advocacy groups masquerading as “pro-science” associations of teachers, such as National Association for Science Education, howled in protest and got a few teachers to express their “outrage” that we would presume to instruct them on such a simple topic as climate science. Our own survey showed most teachers, though, appreciated hearing the other side laid out clearly and professionally.
More recently, two teachers at a Colorado middle school used Why Scientists Disagree as part of their mini-indoctrination camp, and sent us letters bragging about their accomplishment, along with some 200 pages of letters from the students themselves. The teachers are Anthonette Klinkerman and John McKinney, the school is Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highland Ranch, Colorado. You can read the teachers’ letter and some samples from the children here.
Anthony Ciani, a physicist, reviewed the teachers’ letters and some of the students’ letters and offers this review:
I perused the letters and found them ironic and sad, very sad. The letters from the two teachers presented a particular irony, for while the teachers attempted a philosophical argument, they based it largely on assertions and premises derived from logical fallacies. For example, Mr. McKinney dismisses Why Scientists Disagree based not on any critique of its arguments, but on his assumption of Heartland’s “political bias”, while he adheres to propaganda created and promulgated by a partisan politician. Even more ironic, Mr. McKinney acknowledges that scientists should be skeptical and should “fairly examine” evidence, within the same paragraph that he flippantly dismisses evidence and skepticism. His coworker is no less ironic.
Clearly unaware that a person can follow another based on an informed decision, Ms. Klinkerman unwittingly insults Obama’s followers by insinuating they are “mindless”, in an apparent attempt to defend them. Ms. Klinkerman’s proclamation that Heartland is stifling debate by presenting an opposing viewpoint is the coup de grace. The greatest irony of all, after basing their dismissal of Heartland’s educational materials on the premise that the unsolicited mailing somehow stifled debate, these so-called teachers involved their students in a debate-free exercise of indoctrination. With 200 examples of that indoctrination included with their letters, it seems unlikely that they gave their students any choice, whether it was a mandatory activity or an offer they couldn’t refuse.
And the sadness sets in. Despite Ms. Klinkerman’s claims that her class engaged in an exercise of “persuasive writing” and “professional etiquette”, her students’ letters lacked both, much as their teachers’ letters. Absent a decent example, I cannot fault the students for their demeaning tones and disjoint, unsubstantiated statements, nor can I fault them for their poor grammar and lack of structure. At the least, Ms. Klinkerman could have taught them grammar, or is that too much white privilege? Mr. McKinney stated that he spends six weeks, not six days, teaching his students about combustion and its environmental effects. As I recall from distant memory, the only combustion we learned in 8th grade was how to properly light our Bunsen burners, and then used those burners to follow in the footsteps of Bunsen to investigate the emission spectra of burning chemicals. I vaguely recall a class period spent placing lit candles inside a bell jar to demonstrate that combustion requires atmospheric oxygen. We may have had to balance some chemical formulas involving oxygen. The most memorable combustion activity was rocketry; however, rocket motors are a reaction of solid chemicals (one an oxygen source), independent of atmospheric oxygen, and therefore not strictly combustion.
Concerning the environment, I recall a discussion on the hydrologic cycle, the different types of clouds and the origin of weather and climatic events. We also spent a couple days concerning the error of measurement. These last two topics might today be considered anti-global warming junk science. In 36 weeks, before the invention of global warming, we covered a lot in 8th grade science. Pollution was a topic; the concerns of the day were chemical pollutants (e.g. DDT, dioxins), the vanishing ozone layer and our looming interment under a mountain of trash, all of which were wrong, but we only wasted a couple of days on them (around April 22nd). The trees my class planted were removed some years ago.
To spend one sixth of the school year teaching such a limited topic as combustion, the greenhouse effect and climate change, either Mr. McKinney is such an excellent teacher of such bright students that he has the extra time to give the topic a thorough treatment, or his class is sorely deprived of more important topics. Given his students’ confused and incorrect statements, it seems the latter. Worse, after spending such time that they should be experts on the subject, they seem challenged to recite the most basic dogma of climate change. I doubt that either of these teachers are competent at education. Their competence at indoctrination is also in question, for while their students believe in the Gospel according to Gore (not Vidal), they cannot properly recite it or even summarize it.
These 8th graders are being taught by 6th graders, and it shows. The students believe that they know what they are talking about, but they are wrong, even when regurgitating the dogma. The teachers likely positively reinforced their students’ attempts at parroting their lessons, irrespective of correctness, thus engendering incompetence and a condescending disposition. If this is typical of our schools, then our education system is producing a generation of incompetent, arrogant fools. Considering my own experiences with millennials, it might be a second defective generation. Then again, something else comes to mind when I think of Denver, six weeks of combustion and a mile high.