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« Science (it says here) | Main | The size of the prize »
Wednesday
Nov112015

Schools: not activist enough

Another day, another environmental activist pretending to be a serious researcher. Diego Román of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas has a paper in that well-known organ of cutting edge science, Environmental Education Research. It reports the results of an analysis of middle school science textbooks and their coverage of climate change. His headline finding is that they are terribly bad:

Our findings showed that these text-books framed climate change as uncertain in the scientific community – both about whether it is occurring as well as about its human-causation.

Román's activism is fairly obvious, even from that brief excerpt: he gives the game away by failing to define what he means by "climate change", a trick that is Lesson One of all "how to be a hippie" courses. Of course in reality, few people on would argue with the twin propositions:

  • that the climate changes naturally on all timescales
  • that mankind has always affected the climate.

If there were any lingering doubt as to the fact that this is an activist screed, then the paper's citation of Cook et al puts them to bed.

You can imagine the direction this is going to lead him. For example, he is horrified by this textbook extract:

1. Not all scientists agree about the causes of global warming. Some scientists think that the 0.7 Celsius degree rise in global temperatures over the past 120 years may be due in part to natural variations in climate.
...comparing it unfavourably to the IPCC's
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed
warming, and understanding of the climate system.

The first, it seems is just not preachy enough, mentioning uncertainties and doubts in a shamelessly scientific manner. This is a bit of a theme in the paper:

While being clear about levels and sources of uncertainty is considered to be ‘good science’ by scientists, the public perceives uncertainty as ‘not knowing’ ...Confusion has been fueled in part due to the accepted language used in scientific writings.

And if this woeful tendency to mention doubts and uncertainties were not bad enough, textbooks are not issuing calls to collective action either!

...no textbook contained a call to action explicitly linking student ability or need to take mitigating actions. One of the barriers to taking action is not knowing the appropriate actions to take (Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera 1986). Boyes, Chuckran, and Stanisstreet (1993) have shown that students often do not know which actions would lead to mitigation of climate change. If students are not getting this information from their schools, then they may have scant opportunity to learn what they can do.

Grief. What a shambles.

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Reader Comments (32)

I always thought "uncertainty" was "not knowing" but then I was an English student not an environmental activist.
The Humpty Dumpty Gambit applies, as ever!

Nov 11, 2015 at 10:20 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

His intended audience does not understand uncertainty. He doesn't either. Climate science activists have never allowed inconvenient facts get in the way of an environmental story, when there is a good financial opportunity.

Nov 11, 2015 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

From his SMU bio:
He holds a B.S. degree in Agronomy from Zamorano University in Honduras and a M.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He earned a M.S. degree in Biology, a M.A. in Linguistics, and a Ph.D. degree in Educational Linguistics, all from Stanford University. Prior to starting his studies at Stanford University, Dr. Román taught middle school science to English Learners and newcomer students for seven years, first in rural Wisconsin and then in San Francisco, California.

'nuff said?

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

He turned out well, though.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Co-author K C Busch is a green zealot. Here's an extract from one she wrote earlier.

Twenty-five lessons from seven teachers were analyzed using semiotic discourse analysis methods. Teachers' frames overlapped to form two distinct discourses: a Science Discourse and a Social Discourse. The dominant Science Discourse can be summarized as follows: Climate change is a current scientific problem that will have profound global effects on the Earth's physical systems. The Social Discourse, used much less often, can be summarized as follows: Climate change is a future social issue because it will have negative impacts on people at the local level. While it is not surprising that the Science Discourse was heard most often in these science classrooms, framing research suggests it is problematic. The research literature on framing indicates that the frames found in the Science Discourse—global scale, scientific statistics and facts, and impact on the Earth's systems—are not likely to inspire action. In contrast, the frames found within the Social Discourse—local scale, impact on humans, and connections to social, economic, and political processes—are more likely to inspire action. The implications for the classroom are discussed.

There you are, science teachers. Go easy with the science - even if it is politically correct 'science', and go heavy with the propaganda.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterCB

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.”

Guess who said that ...

Pointman

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

A bit of sage advice from statistician Briggs about letting these people get by with the phrase "climate change".

Before we start, you can and must combat propaganda by saying global warming. Do not say climate change. This admonition cannot be repeated enough. Please pass it on.

To say climate change is to concede a fallacy. A lie. To say climate change is to admit complete and utter defeat. We were promised global warming, not climate change. Make them stick to their promise.

Now if the globe warms, the climate has changed. But the climate also changes if the globe cools. The climate changes if it becomes wetter or again if it becomes drier. It changes if there are more storms or fewer.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

So sad!

But the good news is that it seems that there are textbooks in use in US schools that are reasonable and calm about the speculation that CO2 emissions, ours in particular, will dominate the climate system and cause great harm. It is especially a relief that they are not trying to recruit children for the political drives to make that speculation above debate and a reason to harm people's lives and children's spirits.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

1. Not all scientists agree about the causes of global warming. Some scientists think that the 0.7 Celsius degree rise in global temperatures over the past 120 years may be due in part to natural variations in climate.

If the content of that text book is of the same standard as that extract then there is some hope for the students using it.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"students often do not know which actions would lead to mitigation of climate change"

Nor do grown-ups.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:54 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Education is the imparting of knowledge.
Telling people what to do and how to do it is Training or possibly Brainwashing ^.^

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:12 PM | Registered CommenterDung

'This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed
warming, and understanding of the climate system.'

'Understanding of the climate system?' What an absurd lie. We know nothing.

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

"Southern Methodist University"

I know one shouldn't stereotype, but one look at that photo and you just know.. :-)

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:28 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

With a PhD in linguistics he must surely know that the IPCC report is among those scientific studies that state that a goodly portion of climate change must be natural. Therefore he lied by omission. He needs a refresher course in ethics - specifically including noble cause corruption.

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

We do not to educate young people as to the rights and wrongs in the climate debate, we just need to teach them to question what they are told and leave the rest to them.

Nov 11, 2015 at 1:35 PM | Registered CommenterDung

If students are not getting this information from their schools, then they may have scant opportunity to learn what they can do.
Ahhh, but they will pretty soon if Paris comes through for the activists. As in, work harder (in the dark) to earn the money to pay the taxes to 'mitigate the climate' that they've been taught told is changing 'cos of man. And there was me thinking that students were always taught to follow Rudyard Kipling's dictum:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Nov 11, 2015 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

jamesp - I know exactly what you're saying here....!

I've had many interesting and amusing conversations with Americans, but in which interest has abruptly hit the buffers when they come out with: 'You really must come to our church....'

Nov 11, 2015 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

<blockquote cite=""Education is the imparting of knowledge.
Telling people what to do and how to do it is Training or possibly Brainwashing ^.^

Nov 11, 2015 at 12:12 PM | Registered CommenterDung</blockquote cite=""

That is also what the BBC doesn't understand about their original charter to "Educate, Entertain and Inform". They think education means "instruction", or least those with the green-tinted glasses do.

Nov 11, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Meanwhile, here in the UK the BBC is ensuring that our children endure no such challenges to their faith.

Here's a BBC GCSE Bitesize past Physics exam paper for the 16 year old pupils to learn from.
Read it and weep.

Nov 11, 2015 at 2:49 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Harry Passfield
And what happened to the playground challenge in any decent argument: "Prove it!"?

Nov 11, 2015 at 3:33 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Dung,

Education is the imparting of knowledge.
Telling people what to do and how to do it is Training or possibly Brainwashing ^.^

Indoctrination, Inculcation.

I kind of like inculcation. The Free Dictionary defines it as:

1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill: inculcating sound principles.
2. To teach (others) by frequent instruction or repetition; indoctrinate: inculcate the young with a sense of duty.

Nov 11, 2015 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

Indoctrination and Inculcation both relate to attitude, ideas and opinion so are rarely appropriate in education.

Nov 11, 2015 at 4:47 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Nov 11, 2015 at 2:49 PM | M Courtney

More BBC/government propaganda - they just can't help themselves.

Quite clearly dated.

Anyone know the answer to Q 5B?

Nov 11, 2015 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

M Courtney 2:49, I did read it, and I did weep. I could have been a BBC science expert after all.

Nov 11, 2015 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

5B Hydroelectric power stations can respond very quickly to short surges in the
demand for electricity in the UK.
Another source of energy in the UK that can respond very quickly to short
surges in the demand for electricity is...
1 tidal. 2 wave. 3 wind. 4 geothermal.
Well you can't turn on Wave and wind when you need them.
If you had geothermal powerplant and it wasn't running yes you could switch it on pretty quickly.
1. You wouldn't leave geothermal idling ..it's free power so you'd run it flat out.
2. You can't turn on geothermal in the UK cos there aren't any geothermal power stations just a tiny 8MW one in Southhampton.

Nov 12, 2015 at 8:22 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I think I will undertake some scientific study of my own this weekend. I will study what the future holds for Humanity & the planet under a Greenalist agenda, so I am going to dig out my dvd of Logan's Run to give it a good peepers, (especially as it has Jenny Aggeter in the nude!!!!!!!!!!!!). I will also give The Matrix a review too I think. Both movies, (along with every other dier movie of similar genre, sum it up pretty well, me thinks. I wonder why the writers of such scripts had such a negative view on the future, especially when the "guvment" so described, was always demonic! The films always show a Humanity either, oppressed, suppressed, or conditioned in their behaviour, or a combination of all three, with the ones who know best, in charge!

Nov 12, 2015 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Calm down Alan! Remember your blood pressure..

Link

:-)

Nov 12, 2015 at 6:10 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

CB, what an excellent post.

WTF are "semiotic discourse methods?"

Please keep commenting here.

Nov 12, 2015 at 7:36 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

The "banality of evil" comes to mind.

Nov 12, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Nov 12, 2015 at 8:22 AM | stewgreen

My point was - there is no answer in the list. There is only one tidal generator in the UK (1.2MW); the trivial 8MW Southampton geothermal station only produces district heating; there is no wave generation in the UK; wind can only respond if there happens to be underutilised wind but since the grid is required to take all the wind power that's generated there won't be any surplus to cope with a surge.

Nov 13, 2015 at 1:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

No I agreed with your point straight away that no answer is correct @Billy, what I did wa double check on the Geothermal and found it implausible aswell.

Nov 13, 2015 at 3:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen

Wasn't there a wave powered bus on Islay at some point? I can't immediately find out whether it still works, I'll hve another look later, but I did find this report from 2013, which doesn't seem very encouraging..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-21657133

Nov 13, 2015 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

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