Integrity of Science

We checked The Onion, and this doesn’t appear to be a joke.

The Federal Way (Washington) School Board has placed a moratorium on the showing of “An Inconvenient Truth” in its classrooms. The documentary of Al Gore’s climate change campaign has dubiously joined Sex Ed and evolution in the list of topics banned in the classroom. What was the impetus, you wonder? You’re not going to believe it:

“Condoms don’t belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He’s not a schoolteacher,” said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. “The information that’s being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. … The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn’t in the DVD.” Source (hat-tip to Grist)

Are these scientific arguments? Are they in anyway persuasive? Federal Way School Board member David Larson thinks so. He proposed the moratorium, and is muddying scientific knowledge as a free speech issue.

“Somebody could say you’re killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we’re encouraging free speech,” said Larson, a lawyer. “The beauty of our society is we allow debate.”

The Board’s application of a 3-step plan for showing the documentary suggests the debate is over:

teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a “credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented,” that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an “opposing view.”

At best then, the School Board is actively discouraging the discussion of climate change in the classroom. Anytime you build hurdles into an education plan, it’s going to curtail the practice. Yet with this kind of reactionary and thick-headed decisionmaking, we wonder why we have a problem retaining public school teachers.

The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.

You had better believe the good people at ExxonMobil are high-fiving that quote (see the Union of Concerned Scientists new report Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air for a discussion on the oil company’s prolonged effort to muddy the scientific understanding of climate change).

From what we can tell from the news story, this new policy is based on a sole complaint, a complaint that challenges the science but backs up its arguments with only the Bible and conjecture.

Hardison and his wife, Gayla, said they would prefer that the movie not be shown at all in schools.

“From what I’ve seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of ‘bad America, bad America,’ I don’t think it should be shown at all,” Gayle Hardison said. “If you’re going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don’t think the video should be shown.”

So now their objection is neither scientific, nor Biblical, it’s patriotic. We can only imagine that gravitational theory is next on the chopping block.

Climate science predictions are imprecise, but the consensus is that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, and that like body temperature, a few degrees can mean the difference between healthy and gravely ill. We’ll only know how bad things will get with time, but pulling the plug on classroom VCRs isn’t going to make it go away.

To the parents of Federal Way students who hope their children may have futures in science, medicine, or technology (or a future for their grandchildren) we have a suggestion: speak up — at your next school committee meeting and on Election Day.


  1. #1 Bill Malkin
    January 11, 2007

    More evidence that America is doomed! Once Science is shackled, other countries, particularly China, India and Russia, will move to the forefront of technology and hence become the world powers. Probably not a bad thing though as America has had its time.

  2. #2 msnci
    November 4, 2008

    he old man owned several businesses, Ameritania Hotel New York two of which ran around the clock. I used to do the daily bank because the owner didn’t trust himself with cash, or his son either. The owner had learned all his accounting by rote, taught to msn nickleri him by others. He taught his son by rote as well.

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