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« The OAS and replicability | Main | Prosecute scientific misconduct »

The Texas textbook massacre

Leo Hickman points us to an article by the Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg:

Texas proposes rewriting school text books to deny manmade climate change.

Sounds pretty interesting. Here's the article. In it we learn that:

Texas has proposed re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change and promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank.

The proposed text books – which come up for public hearing at the Texas state board of education on Tuesday – were already attracting criticism when it emerged that the science section had been altered to reflect the doctrine of the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires.

Golly. Evil personified then. However, if you look at the actual report that Ms Goldenberg is citing, you learn that the furore concerns the adoption of new textbooks in Texas schools. Her claim that textbooks are being rewritten is an invention.

Ms Goldenberg has helpfully included a screenshot of the objectionable passage, which begins:

Scientists agree that the Earth's climate is changing. They don't agree what is causing the change.

and goes on to discuss the possibility that some or all recent warming might be natural in origin. I think reasonable people on both sides of the debate would agree that "some" was a racing certainty but that "all" is probably going a bit too far. But of course this being our environmentalist friends, we have the perennial mispresentation of the debate into all or nothing on a human influence (citing Cook et al in the process!), faithfully reported by Ms Goldenberg.

Perhaps more importantly for the students in question, it seems that the Heartland text was put up next to an excerpt from the Fourth Assessment Report, with students asked to assess the two texts. So when Ms Goldenberg says that Texas is "re-writing school text books to incorporate passages denying the existence of climate change" it's simply not true. Nothing is being rewritten. The text is a sceptic one and students are  being asked to assess it next to an official one. Education in other words, not propaganda; science rather than religion.

You can see why the greens might not like it.

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Reader Comments (33)

Well it's only the Grauniad.

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

promoting the discredited views of an ultra-conservative think tank.

I must have missed that bit. When was the Heartland Institute discredited? Was it, by any chance, when a climate scientist, who happened to be chair for the "Task Force on Scientific Ethics", used deception to obtain documents from the Heartland Institute and, when they didn't show anything wrong, forged a document to fit his conspiracy theory?

Or is an organisation that the guardian disagrees with automatically discredited simply because of that disagreement?

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

This looks like a very promising development. According to this report (h/t Climate Depot), the textbooks are in 'social studies':

As a number of newly proposed social studies textbooks in Texas present it, climate change is a contentious and controversial issue which remains up for debate inside and outside of the scientific community.

Sounds about right to me.

There have been earlier efforts to inject more sense into school textbooks in Texas. Here is one report from 2009: It gives a sense of how highly-strung and ruthless the climate scare campaigners are when they get severely agitated over a phrase as innocuous as the one highlighted here:

Last week the Texas State Board of Education changed the language in a school textbook chapter to include the phrase 'analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming'.

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

How are students to be taught critical thinking and analysis, if not by examples side by side?
The Texas reaction as reported is no more than childish paranoia.
Sheesh, is there no end to the nonsense?

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Since when was "ManMadeGlobalWarming" in the textbooks?
Also in what discipline was is it taught -
Social Sciences?
English literature ( fiction )?

Sep 16, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterWJohn

I love the qualifier there:

"...the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires."

That's it then. That's all we need to know. The most important factoid about Heartland is that it is "funded by the Koch oil billionaires." Heartland, a comma, and a slap. If only all journalism was this balanced!

Sep 16, 2014 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

The extract that Goldenburg cites gives the alternatives as all or nothing. That is wrong and unhelpful. We really need to ask "how much?", not insist that ask school children to take sides.

I also don't think it's a good idea to feature this under "what do you think?" I don't think this is a good way to teach school science.

There's a place in school for students to learn how to debate politics and philosophy. But so far as scientific questions go, they should either be presented with established results or be taught how scientists are trying to test and resolve unknown questions. In most cases I think school science should restrict itself to teaching what is more solidly established, probably with much less climate science altogether.

Sep 16, 2014 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJK

[I]t seems that the Heartland text was put up next to an excerpt from the Fourth Assessment Report, with students asked to assess the two texts.

It's fine that a text book should put up both sides of a debate and encourage 'critical thinking' as Geoff suggests, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the school boards are supporting scepticism.

What would be a great help would be to see the Tutor's/Examiner's marking guide and what would happen to a student's coursework/paper were he/she to come out and agree with the Heartland pov.

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

How did Suzi get her job? Doesn't The Guardian have "reading comprehension above grade school level" as a job requirement?

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSundance

Dana Nuccitelli has a Guardian claims that humans have contributed '110%' of the warming from 1950 - present. He generously offsets the 10% surplus to 'natural causes', leaving only the entire 100% of warming to man made causes. Good of him, eh?

Hence, they're not for sharing possible attribution one little bit as that would weaken their hysteria. In their loopy world It's all man made.

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

The climate kooks cannot stand honest discussions. Of course they would be outraged to have their faux consensus challenged.

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The guardianista commentards who has commented on this articale are even more scary that Ms Goldenberg, IMHO.

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"...the Heartland Institute, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires."

Imagine how much fun we can have with that wording, for example:

The award-winning PBS (American public television) series NOVA, which has been funded by the Koch oil billionaires, claims that...

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterfortunatecookie

For students inoculated during their first grades with the NASA's teacher guide definition of CO2 as "the invisible gas produced by dead animals and rotting vegetation", followed up with the full set of booster shots contained in NASA's "Global Climate Change "Tips and Tricks for Teachers", achieving independent thought may be beyond reach.

Sep 16, 2014 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I wonder if it occurs to journalists elsewhere on the Grauniad that the environmental coverage devalues everything else they write about.

Sep 16, 2014 at 5:17 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

In the United States, education is intensely politicised, for a variety of reasons, but, lately, the federal government has been trying to foist a curriculum on to the nation's public schools (the equivalent of the state schools here). You could say Kenneth Baker tried the same thing in England and Wales, but he was genuinely concerned by shocking scales of illiteracy and innumeracy. They have the same problems in the States, but the current policy from Washington contains nothing to solve those. It is, however, buried up to the neck in politically correct thinking and blatant indoctrination. The individual states do have legal control over such matters, although Washington has been threatening to inflict financial penalties on states which don't cooperate. With probably the strongest economy among the states, Texas is well-placed to stand firm against such threats.

Sep 16, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

jamesp - Well said. The Guardian seems to have no standards at all when it comes to environmental journalism. I take everything they write about with a very large pinch of salt as a consequence. The same goes for the BBC, but then, it is often said that the latter is the broadcast arm of the former.

Sep 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The irony is Goldenberg is attacking Texas for not having books which take a extreme dogmatic stance and which suggest that people should think for themselves rather than just believe what they read.

That her claims turn out to be nonsense is no surprise,most of the article is her having digs at groups she does not like and facts be dammed .

Sep 16, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

"How did Suzi get her job? Doesn't The Guardian have "reading comprehension above grade school level" as a job requirement?"
Sep 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Sundance

They do. If you pass then you don't get the job.

Sep 16, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Amusing. The pro-AGW camp is just becoming more and more desparate. The interesting thing about The Guardian (which, as a lifeling Guardian/Observer reader, they really disappoint), is that they can only continue to support their position by reverting to more and more propaganda, and censorship - both of which they would like to believe are opposite to their moral position.

Sep 16, 2014 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

Sep 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

It is going to be a significant chunk of the readership. The Guardian readership really can be stereotyped reasonably well. Other people buy newspapers in significant numbers just for the puzzle page for example.

Who actually buys a newspaper these days, I can't imagine people less than say 30-40 buying one particularly. I would be interested what the demographics really are.

Sep 16, 2014 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Given the number of students around the US and the globe who were force-fed AlGore's "Inconvenient Nonsense" this seems like a proper, cathartic response to the pandemic spread of climate hysteria.

Sep 16, 2014 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdp

Of course Goldenberg is peddling raw propaganda.

But I would like to acquaint the Bishop's audience with a bit of historical perspective on Texas. Spanish (then Mexican) Texas was originally settled by Americans who could not make it in the early US. They were an independent lot and carved out a civilization where the land, climate, and Indians were so bad that the Spanish could convince almost nobody to settle there. In less than 20 years, they had had enough of the Mexicans and threw them out in 1836 under the leadership of Sam Houston. Texas became an independent republic and was in fact recognized as such by many countries, including the UK and France. It entered the US as a separate state after 9 years as an independent republic. It is important to know that because Texas did not join the US as a result of purchase or war, the Federal government owned no land within the state of Texas, and to this day almost all Texas land is not Federally owned. This has enabled the state to develop its resources more independently than other states that joined the US after the original 13 colonies declared independence.

Because of this history Texas to this day has a very independent culture and often carves out its own path that is at odds with the central government. Perhaps one day Texans will become a wimpy as current Scotland, but that time is not upon us yet.

Sep 16, 2014 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

These same Texas Republicans have for decades pushed for inserting the Bible into biology textbooks and then helped ban federal funding for stem cell research. That's why their effort here is actually counterproductive. The analogy already set a precedent to attacks on valid science having nothing to do with a scientific scam. Even using a pro/com debate format legitimizes climate “science” in a way the whitewashes the core fraud involved in which the hockey stick team promotes and defends frauds like Marcott 2013 and Cook’s 97%. Kids have the Internet now, so textbooks are not the battleground that matters. When these same kids mature a bit and realize the scam, they will merely remember how textbooks failed to expose such a terribly obvious scam and they will lose respect for school and their lame society that lacked a backbone, letting them down, and helping create a permanent baseline recession.

Sep 16, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

Excellent news, at least some young minds will learn the truth that -
There is no global warming outside of normal natural variation – period.
There is NO anthroprogenic fingerprint for warming – as there is no unnatural warming.

And villifying CO2 must stop, it is NOT causing any substantial warming, does not endanger anything, and humans do not control its level in the atmosphere.

Sep 16, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

The situation in Texas is a bit more complex.
Lefties would like to have everyone think that all Republicans are trying to put the bible in science.
That is not the case.
A tiny group of extremists got into positions to influence curriculum choices and and made some proposals about teaching evolution..
Those proposals were turned down.
The ban on stem cell research is also more complex. It was banned at the federal level.
The only only stem cell research restricted was from human embryos, not all stem cells.
Oddly enough at least so far embryonic stem cells have not been a fruitful area of research.
Stem cells from adults and umbilical cords, on the other hand, have been useful.

Sep 16, 2014 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I appreciate the Goldenberg is forced to lie to make her point. Otherwise, there really could be a problem.

Sep 16, 2014 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute


The Early Bird has found the Worm.

Sep 16, 2014 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Reads like the start of push back. Last three posts at BH have actually made me feel optimistic

Sep 17, 2014 at 1:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

How sad the the once great Manchester Guardian has stooped so low as to allow such a manipulation of the truth.

But the reality is that this is actually good news

the truth is now out and the pendulum has not just stopped its swing to alarmism but has started to fall back towards honesty and common sense - and indeed common decency.

Decent people will observe what Suzanne Goldenberg has written - see it for what it is - and never trust her writings again.

She should be thanked for her arrogance and lack of moral compass.

Sep 17, 2014 at 2:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

Well I guess they could get their Climate Science from the US State Dept

Sec of State Kerry on the greenhouse effect:
"Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going. Life itself on Earth exists because of the so-called greenhouse effect. But in modern times, as human beings have emitted gases into the air that come from all the things we do, that blanket has grown thicker and it traps more and more heat beneath it, raising the temperature of the planet. It’s called the greenhouse effect because it works exactly like a greenhouse in which you grow a lot of the fruit that you eat here."

Sep 17, 2014 at 5:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrancisT

FrancisT, wow! My first thought was that it has to be an "inside job" to make Kerry look the utter fool most of us know him to be. Is trepanning a requirement for high office?

Sep 17, 2014 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Bromige

TomBromige asked:
"Is trepanning a requirement for high office?"
Not at all. Sec. Kerry underwent his voluntarily to permit him to more easily accept his boss's policy goals.

Sep 17, 2014 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

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