Monday, June 7, 2010

The War on Independent Thought

The Right Word
By Kelly Sloan
Two weeks ago, a pair of petitions were presented to the District 51 School Board. One read “We, the undersigned, petition the Mesa County Valley District 51 School Board to create and enforce a policy that prohibits teachers from applying their political views to the teaching and grading of students. Partisan politics do not belong in our classrooms.” The other one, “…to create and enforce a policy that prohibits the teaching of man-made climate change theory as scientific fact in the students’ curriculum.”

Considering the response from some on the left, you would think the petitions asked to bring back a policy of burning heretics at the stake.

The two petitions were created, circulated and presented in response to many parents and students who were concerned about an excess of partisan political bias being presented in the classroom, and a substantial number of students who felt as though their conservative ideas and beliefs were being unduly silenced. The second petition was included as an addendum in response to the inclusion of agenda-driven opinions and conjecture to science curriculums covering climate studies.

Included in the classroom instruction on the subject were multiple viewings of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, which students watched between 2 to 4 times during the course of their High School careers, without hearing about the numerous fallacies contained within the movie, nor being presented with the many valid counterpoints to the films pseudo-scientific and political bases. Interestingly, one of the criticisms leveled at the petition’s author, Rose Pugliese, is that she is a lawyer, not a scientist, an issue of apparently no concern regarding lawyer-not-scientist Gore.

Denials to the contrary aside, anthropogenic global warming IS a political issue. It stopped being strictly science when it became an ideology, in the sense that any facts, data, or evidence compiled had to be manipulated to fit and prove the theory; science, in contrast, uses data to test a theory, not the reverse.

The politicization was complete when an economic agenda was attached to it. Climatology would have remained in a relatively obscure corner of the scientific world if not for the fact that it has been used to create dire (and untestable) predictions, reminiscent of Robert Malthus’s ill-fated prognosis of mass starvation in the early 1800’s, which are in turn used to advance a socio-economic program that has, incidentally, failed every reasonable test wherever it has been tried. Ergo, the untenable presumptions of man-made global warming are used as an excuse for international wealth redistribution, domestic cap-and-trade and carbon tax policies, subsidization of government sponsored “green” industries, and other command-and-control economic policies.

There is some valid climate science behind the global warming hypothesis, the facts of which should be taught in science classrooms. Similarly, the political and economic dimensions should be taught, in the appropriate setting, but in a way which recognizes that that dimension is opinion, not solid fact, to which there are counterpoints and opposing approaches, which should be presented in an effort to foster independent thinking. The responsibility of teachers and administrations is to distinguish between fact and opinion, certainty and hypothesis; for it is in the blurring of that distinction that the danger of indoctrination, intended or unintended, lies.

It has been long acknowledged that one of the bulwarks of modern liberalism is academia; it is there that instructors may communicate bias through their approach to and presentation of events, policies, and issues of the day, and can do so with a measure of authority, granted to them by society as the official disseminators of information. In so doing, they possess a unique ability to formulate opinion and influence thought, often to an audience in its formative stages. Concomitant to this must be a responsibility to remain vigilant against any abuse of that ability.

That idea is at the core of the petitions presented last week. Opponents of the initiative may be upset at the notion of their views having to compete with others in the public policy arena, but that is far outweighed by the benefits to society of the cultivation of independent thought in our schools.

Kelly Sloan is a Grand Junction resident and Mesa County Director of Americans For Prosperity Colorado.

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