Skepticism

The Republican Plan to Stop Students from Learning about Global Warming

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Transcript:

About 15 years ago — holy shit, I actually need to pause to absorb the fact that it’s been 15 years…okay — creationism was a big thing. Creationists worked hard to force their bible story into science class rooms, arguing that we should teach that instead of evolution, and then that we should “teach the controversy” and that evolution was “only a theory.” They tried passing federal bills but those would get shot down, so they then created dozens of identical bills to pass individually state-by-state, because fewer people pay attention to what’s happening on the state level. They made the bills vague exhortations to protect “religious freedom” and to prevent the indoctrination of children. For the most part those bills failed, but in some places they succeeded and we had to spend a solid decade cleaning them up.

Less than 10 years ago, the same thing happened with abstinence-only education. The same people argued that we should teach that instead of actual sex ed, and if that failed they argued that we should teach both. They tried passing federal bills that failed, so then they reated dozens of identical bills to pass individually state-by-state, because fewer people pay attention to what’s happening on the state level. They made the bills vague exhortations to protect “religious freedom” and to prevent the indoctrination of children. For the most part those bills failed, but in some places they succeeded and we’ve been fighting to clean them up for the past decade, along with abortion and birth control restrictions.

This year, 2019, the same thing is happening with climate change. The same people are arguing that we should teach that anthropogenic global warming is a myth, and that if we can’t teach that then we should at least “teach the controversy” and teach kids that climate change is disputed science. They’ve made dozens of identical bills to pass individually state-by-state, because fewer people pay attention to what’s happening on the state level. They’ve made the bills vague exhortations to protect “religious freedom” and to prevent the indoctrination of children.

Seriously! This is happening! AGAIN! They are a broken record, and in turn I am a broken record.

South Dakota, Arizona, Virgina, Maine, and Montana have all introduced bills in the past two months trying to break down the ability of science teachers to teach kids about human-caused global warming, a concept that is not only accepted by 97% of all climate scientists, but also a thing that is almost certainly going to royally fuck the human race if we don’t do something about it. Like, the kids who won’t be learning about this are exactly the ones who are most royally fucked by it.

Montana is taking a page right out of the creationists’ book, and by that I mean “the textbook that creationists edited to include a passage saying that evolution isn’t real (yes, that happened)” — the bill states that science texts would have to have a disclaimer in them reading the following absolute lies:

“reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment; science shows human emissions do not change atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions enough to cause climate change; claims that carbon associated with human activities causes climate change are invalid; and nature, not human activity, causes climate change.”

Identical bills in Arizona and South Dakota say that no public school teacher can advocate “for any issue that is part of a political party platform at the national, state, or local level,” which would, as chance should have it, actually include global warming, evolution, and sex ed.

The Maine bill is pure “teach the controversy,” saying “the rules must require a teacher to provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue being addressed and to present both sides in a fair-minded, nonpartisan manner.”

The Virginia bill is my favorite, because of its completely naked political bias, in which legislators whine that teachers, “speak to captive audiences of students in an attempt to indoctrinate or influence students to adopt specific political and ideological positions on issues of social and political controversy … under the guise of ‘teaching for social justice’ and other sectarian doctrines.” Ah yes, teaching children about social movements, and accepted science — the nerve!

Let’s take bets on the next scientifically noncontroversial idea the Religious Right will attack using this exact same playbook: spherical earth? Smoking causing cancer? Hurricanes not being acts of a vengeful god punishing the gays? I’ll just write up the video script now and leave blanks where that stuff will go. Like, “This month BLANK NUMBER OF states have introduced identical bills calling on teachers to teach the controversy about ACCEPTED SCIENCE. The bills’ language is purposely vague in order to sneak it past unsuspecting constituents who won’t realize what’s happening until their schoolchildren are learning about MADE UP FAIRYTALE FROM THE BIBLE instead of ACTUAL ACCEPTED SCIENCE. To fight this, please call your state representative and remind him or her that it is CURRENT YEAR and we’d prefer to move ahead into the future instead of regressing to the tenth century.”

Perfect. I just saved myself so much time! Future me is going to be so relieved.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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