Following the publication of my article, Poisoning the Minds of Children: Climate Denial Book Sent to Schools, I wanted to share reactions from teachers and students about the “textbook” that was allegedly sent to every science teacher in the nation by the Koch Brothers funded, Heartland Institute. This book, touted as a scientifically valid textbook, is a deliberate disinformation attempt to sow doubt about the climate change crisis.
Since my article came out, and the book’s release, there have been reactions from the educational community and the press.
In a recent article in the New York Times, one teacher explained why she opened the cleverly designed envelope the book came in:
“One academic in Albany told me that hers arrived in an envelope bearing the headline of a New York Times article about an investigation into Exxon Mobil for possibly lying about climate change. “I was in a rush, and all I noticed was the word ‘climate’ in a New York Times headline,” she said. “That made me open it rather than throw it out.”
The National Science Teachers Association‘s executive director, David Evans, didn’t mince words:
“Labeling propaganda as science does not make it so.”
Evans called Heartland‘s mass mailing of the book an “unprecedented attack” on science education.
Students are having none of this climate denial, either. In California, high school students visited California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a known climate denier, to give him two textbooks on climate change. When they attempted to voice their concerns, they were shut out of the office – even after knocking, using the intercom, and leaving a message. For several students, this was their first participation in activism – and they will persist.
Unfortunately, this disinformation campaign isn’t going away anytime soon. According to Heartland:
“Why Scientists Disagree is a small book, only 110 pages long, but it is actually only a single chapter of a much longer book that is in preparation for publication, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Benefits and Costs of Fossil Fuels, produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).”
In addition to the Times, Moms Clean Air Force wasn’t the only group to take notice of the propaganda campaign Heartland is waging on America’s teachers. The organization, Do Something, started a campaign to organize the nation’s science teachers and students to reject these “textbooks” from getting into America’s classrooms. Do Something provides a pledge for teachers, asking them not to share climate lies and denial in their classrooms.
Bill Bigelow, the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools, has been studying this issue nationwide, and edited a teacher-created curriculum grounded in sound climate science.
Rethinking Schools launched a campaign to offer free copies of the curriculum book to teachers in six states where fossil fuel industry lawmakers are advancing legislation supporting climate denial in schools: Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, and Idaho.
Here’s Bigelow’s response about the Heartland mailing:
“We need to sound the alarm about the Heartland Institute’s well-funded attempt to poison teachers’ understanding of the climate crisis. However, the sad truth is that the textbook industry has long adopted a skeptical stance toward the human causes of climate change. This is one reason the Portland, Oregon, school board unanimously adopted a “climate justice” resolution last year, calling on the school district to “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.” It’s important for schools to reject the Heartland Institute’s propaganda, but it’s no less important that teachers, parents, and community members work to create a curriculum that helps students think deeply about the causes and consequences of climate change–and what all of us can do about it.”
A high school biology teacher from Vermont told me he uses the book to prop up his computer.
The mailing also reached college science professors. Ted Fink, a professor at Marist College School of Science, said this of the mailing:
“The book and DVD was a thinly veiled attempt to impersonate credible scientific research with a mix of misinformation that appeals to economic self-interest and a sense of patriotism. Heartland works hard to make their arguments sound credible. Almost all of their assertions have been debunked. Skeptical Science is a great resource for anyone who has questions about the veracity of Heartland’s claims.”
It’s our job as teachers and parents to help kids recognize propaganda and fake news. By providing vetted and credible sources, teachers can share real data and scientific facts with their students to help them understand and prevent the growing crisis of climate change.
While there’s no way to gauge what Heartland’s latest attempt at climate disinformation will have on educators and students across the nation, it sure highlights how anti-science politics have infiltrated our families in a most dangerous way.
Photo: Rhett Allain via Twitter