Environment

The Debate Over Teaching Climate Change in Schools

July 24, 2017
Climate Change

Even with concern for climate change in the US being the highest it’s been in about 30 years, only 45 percent of Americans are worried about it. This almost even split is likely to make the debate over the issue of climate change even more controversial regardless of whether you believe or doubt the phenomena.

However, more debate has risen recently over whether school curriculums should include climate change. This conundrum is extremely complicated, delving into issues beyond climate change itself, like how we decide what topics our children learn.

What Has Happened?

Recent events have proven that the debate over teaching climate change in schools is far from finished. In Florida, House Bill 989 passed in June. This bill enabled any individual in Florida to raise concerns about a school’s curriculum and potentially have it changed. Some people believe this bill to be an attack on the teaching of climate change and other controversial topics.

Similarly, in February 2017, the state of Idaho removed any references to climate change from the education curriculum. While many Republican sources argued that the move was simply an act of giving control back to individual school districts over their own curriculum, the specific removal of how human behavior affects Earth’s climate can be viewed as a direct attack on the teaching of climate change itself.

Theory or Fact?

The issue at the heart of the debate over teaching climate change in schools is whether it is a scientific theory or scientific fact. Few question the place of scientific facts in our nation’s curriculum — gravity is a force keeping us on the ground. Electrons have a negative charge, and humans are mammals. But should we consider climate change a fact or theory?

The general scientific consensus is that climate change happens, and we are at least one of the causes. While many prominent scientists and officials do question this basic premise, most controversy surrounds the extent that humans influence global warming. This is why many people criticize the teaching of climate change in schools. If uncertainty exists, then many people believe schools should not teach the subject to their children.

To Teach or Not to Teach — That Is the Question

The uncertainty surrounding climate change is one of the main reasons why its relevance to the curriculum is questioned so regularly. However, 97 percent of scientists agree on both climate change happening in the world and human activity’s effect on it — so is it really that uncertain?

The real danger that surrounds teaching climate change in schools comes from the potential for teachers to fail to teach it properly. Climate change’s controversial nature is likely to spur passionate opinions from even teachers themselves, supposed bastions of impartiality.

Many teachers misrepresent the scientific consensus regarding climate change, teaching inconsistently with the reportedly 97 percent of the scientific community who support the occurrence of human-influenced climate change.

What to Do?

So what is the solution to the debate over teaching climate change in schools?

Simply put, there is no one solution. No single action can possibly solve the myriad of problems likely to arise from teaching climate change in schools, or from failing to teach it.

But if, as many scientists believe, human activity is a factor in climate change, then it is essential for the next generation to learn about the potential effects of their actions — and what they can do to alleviate the results of those actions.

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