With surveys showing majorities of young people reporting serious anxiety over climate change, some educators are growing concerned that kids are not getting a balanced view of climate change in the classroom.
While almost everyone agrees that carbon dioxide emissions have an impact on the climate, many believe the science is being misrepresented to create an exaggerated view of the impacts of global warming. In turn, kids are led to believe the problem is much more dire than the science is showing.
However, when these educators try to present a different point of view in the classroom, they’re accused of teaching “science denial” and promoting oil industry propaganda.
“Without fear, the left would cease to exist. Fear, as we saw regarding COVID lockdowns — school closings, compulsory masks and vaccine mandates — is the left’s oxygen,” Dennis Prager, American conservative host of a nationally syndicated radio show, told Cowboy State Daily.
Florida’s Department of Education approved for classroom use material from the Prager University Foundation, which Prager co-founded. It’s the first state to do so.
The material won’t be used in lieu of other materials, but the goal is to provide more balance to the materials used.
When the Heartland Institute wrote a textbook challenging the apocalyptic view of climate change, the media had a similar reaction.
E&E reporter Scott Waldman quoted PragerU CEO Marissa Steit saying that climate is always changing, which Waldman called a “climate-denial motto that rejects fossil fuels as the cause of continuously record high temperatures.”
Yet, the idea that the Earth, prior to significant carbon dioxide emissions, had a static, predictable climate has no basis in scientific fact. How Waldman extrapolated from Streit’s indisputable statement to something that outright denies that carbon dioxide has any impact on the climate, Waldman doesn’t explain.
Steit goes on to tell E&E News that there’s a debate about the severity of the changing climate, because there is, and the best way to address the problem, which Waldman characterizes as “rejecting decades of peer-reviewed research by some of the world’s top science agencies.”
Among the videos that E&E News claims is so problematic is one that explains that wind and solar energy rely on the wind and sun to produce electricity and are therefore “not constant.”
Isn’t It Ironic?
Streit told E&E News that education institutions are “controlled by one ideology.”
Prager said the E&E article ironically supports Streit’s claim.
“I hold to the classically liberal view that the essence of education is to present facts and arguments and teach students to evaluate different perspectives,” Prager said. “The left finds this threatening — for good reason. Students exposed to a variety of views are more likely to think for themselves and are thus harder to indoctrinate.”
Prager said the PragerU materials are fact-based and the videos link to all the facts and sources used by the presenters.
“I would encourage teachers and students to access those sources, as well as others with contrary positions, and evaluate for themselves which arguments, based on the available facts, make the most sense,” Prager said.
Critics of Prager, such as Andrienne McCarthy, Kansas University researcher, disagree with that kind of blanched approach in the classroom.
“They can take these right-wing, controversial ideas and cloak them in seemingly harmless and friendly rhetoric,” McCarthy told E&E News.
Why these perspectives she apparently disagrees with should be presented in an unfriendly, hostile tone, McCarthy didn’t explain.
The presenters include Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist.
Bjorn Lomborg was featured in a video presenting such facts as the frequency of hurricanes has decreased, as has the costs of disasters, when controlled for changes in wealth — a process called normalizing costs.
Diana Fuchtgott-Roth, American economist who is adjunct professor of economics at George Washington University, has a video that explains that pipelines are among the safest ways to transport energy.
Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, has a video that explains that wind turbines and solar panels require large amounts of fossil fuels to produce, and they have a limited service life before they have to be scrapped and replaced.
Wyoming Local Control
The PragerU materials are free and there are no licensing requirements to use them in classrooms.
Could Wyoming teachers include the videos in their curriculum? That would largely depend on the wishes of local school districts.
RJ Kost, former state senator, said the Wyoming education system is very localized, which he supports.
“I'm a firm believer in local control. And we should allow the districts to make those decisions, not our state people,” Kost said.
Kost is a member of the Wyoming Board of Education, but said his opinions didn’t speak for the board.
He said the state has standards for all areas of education, but local boards have a lot of say over the specifics of the classroom content used to reach those standards.
Tyler Lindholm, state director for Americans for Prosperity in Wyoming and a former state lawmaker, said local control works well in the state.
“That’s a feature, not a bug,” Lindholm said.
One thing that Florida has that Wyoming doesn’t, Lindholm said, is robust school choice options. If Florida parents don’t like what’s being taught at a public school, they have the option to take their tax dollars to private schools or another public school.
He said he is a product of public school. His children go to public schools, and he’s proud of Wyoming’s public schools.
But, Lindholm said, “Wyoming has a lot of work to do when it comes to educational freedom.”
A 2021 survey of 10,000 young people found that 59% were very or extremely worried about climate change. Majorities reported feeling anxious and sad, and only a small portion — fewer than 10% — weren’t worried at all.
Four in 10 of the kids surveyed said they were hesitant to have children.
Prager said the media reaction to Florida’s decision to allow the videos to be used in the state’s classrooms says a lot about public school curriculum and the ideas it’s instilling in the nation’s kids that they have no future.
They don’t welcome a perspective, Prager said, that might lead kids to want a traditional life, including marriage and raising kids.
“Those running the schools have signed on to the extremist agenda to frighten young people into concluding, among other things, that they have a moral responsibility to reduce world population by not reproducing,” Prager said.