Sunday, February 17, 2008

2-17-08: Global Warming in Schools?

Breaking news out of California: global warming might be a required subject in science at all public schools.

Well, not exactly breaking news, I suppose, but still an interesting article. The article mentions the opinions of a few supporters and opponents to the bill, which has been passed by the California state senate and is on its way to Schwarzenegger's desk this week, so we'll see if it's passed.

Personally, I think it's only a good idea if both sides of the issue are addressed, which is mentioned in the article. I'm not opposed to the idea of putting it in the classroom in general, but I'm a bit weary of making this simply a propaganda issue. It is important for kids to be given the chance to learn the science behind both sides of the issue.

But then again, the climate is quite complex. How would you explain to a fourth grader how global warming works? How would you explain the complexity of mankind's role in this? I think what will likely happen is it will be different in each classroom and textbook. The bias of the teacher or the author will take precedence, and my feeling is that the net gain will be zero. People are generally ignorant now, and they might just become misinformed in the future. I hope this isn't the case. I hope they have debates on this in classrooms one day. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

My mentality regarding the "fair and balanced" approach would be that it would probably be best just to explain the basic concepts of this. There aren't really that many sciences that are studied in schools where the "jury is out," so asking teachers to say "Now kids, this is a really complex issue, so take all this with a grain of salt," is not being realistic. But then again, it's a relatively new debate, so maybe it would be a good idea to wait a little bit. It's not like these kids are going to stop anything by recycling their sippy cups or anything like that. OK, that was a bit much, but still, they're kids. Don't make it "global warming week" or anything like that. Just make it part of a larger subject and put it on a test and try to keep it fair.

I wonder if and when this will expand to the other states... I hope it doesn't hit the east coast any time soon. The last thing I need is a sixth grader telling me that my carbon footprint is too large.

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