Monday, May 23, 2016

Portland Bans Climate-Denying Textbooks from Its Schools

Students taking notes from textbooks (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
Climate education in Oregon just took a big step forward.

Last week, the Portland Public Schools board voted to eliminate the use of any textbooks or other materials that are “found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.”

“A lot of the text materials are kind of thick with the language of doubt, and obviously the science says otherwise,” Bill Bigelow, a former Portland public school teacher, told the Portland Tribune.  “We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.”

In his testimony to the board, Bigelow quoted from the book Physical Science, published by Pearson.

“‘Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants and other sources, may contribute to global warming,’” he read.  “This is a section that could be written by the Exxon public relations group and it’s being taught in Portland schools.”

Other books have also been found to cast doubt on climate science:  a review of sixth-grade textbooks in California, for instance, found that the books “framed climate change as uncertain in the scientific community — both about whether it is occurring as well as about its human-causation.”

The resolution, which was created by the Portland chapter of and other community members, also directs the school system’s superintendent to work with students, teachers, and members of the community to come up with a plan to ensure all Portland public schools include climate change and climate justice in their curricula.

“It is essential that in their classes and other school activities students probe the causes and consequences of the climate crisis — as well as possible solutions — in developmentally appropriate ways, and, from pre-K through 12th grade, become ‘climate literate,’ the resolution states.  “Portland Public Schools’ oft-stated commitment to equity requires us to investigate the unequal effects of climate change and to consistently apply an equity lens as we shape our response to this crisis,” it continues.

Portland’s resolution cements the city’s commitment to teaching public school students about climate change.  But Oregon as a state has already made it clear that it values accurate science education.  In 2014, the Oregon State Board of Education voted to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of guidelines that were developed by 26 states — including Oregon — and several science and education groups.  The standards, which were released in 2013, represent the first major overhaul of U.S. science education in more than a decade and include guidelines on teaching climate change and evolution in schools.  So far 18 states have adopted the standards.

Read more at Portland Bans Climate-Denying Textbooks from Its Schools

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