Forget evolution, climate science is the most controversial subject in school

posted at 8:20 pm on March 12, 2012 by Tina Korbe

Little by little, the federal Department of Education appropriates ever more power for itself. (Never mind that the department might very well be unconstitutional in the first place.) Today, most public schools are dependent one way or another on federal funds. Those funds don’t come without strings — and, under the Obama administration, bureaucrats have tightened those strings considerably.

Through the Race to the Top competition, the Ed Department enticed states with reward funds to adopt national standards. (Some state leaders — like Texas Gov. Rick Perry — turned down the funding, but they were the exceptions.) The common core applies to just English and math — relatively straightforward subjects. But it’s probably just a matter of time before the administration bribes states to adopt national science and history standards, as well.

When that happens, the administration will likely turn for inspiration to science standards that have already been developed by several national bodies. These organizations will release a new draft of science education standards in April — and some parents will probably not like what they contain. If you think science should be more straightforward than English, think again. Science hasn’t been noncontroversial since Charles Darwin first forwarded his theory of evolution (and probably before that!). Parents are as outraged today about the way schools teach climate science as they were then about the way schools incorporated evolution into their curriculums.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council, which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet. …

While states set their own educational curriculum, many are likely to use the scientific standards as guidelines. But the approach to climate change could be a sticking point for some states. In one, South Dakota, the state House has already passed a resolution saying climate change should be taught as a “theory rather than a proven fact.”

Rose Pugliese, a lawyer in western Colorado who has asked her local school board to prevent teachers from presenting climate change as fact, said schools should encourage students to reach their own conclusions.

“Unless we’ve got conclusive evidence one way or another—and I don’t think we’ll have that for hundreds of years—I think both sides should be taught,” Ms. Pugliese said. “Allow the kids to figure it out for themselves.”

That approach would mislead students, contends Martin Storksdieck, a director at the National Research Council who is helping to develop the new science standards. “What would be conveyed to them is not how science works—it’s how politics works,” Mr. Storksdieck said.

The relevant question here is actually not, “Is the planet warming?” or “Have humans caused global warming?” The relevant question is, “What role should the government play in education?” or “Who should teach children?”

In general, we’re gradually approaching a mentality that says the upbringing of children — of which education is a fundamental part — is best left to the government — and not local or state government, but the federal government. Why? I’m really asking. What is the philosophical basis for that mentality? What natural claim on children does the government have? What is the practical basis for that mentality? What evidence do we have that a child educated by the government is better off than a child educated by his parents or, at the very least, under the auspices of local or state control?

In fact, the evidence is very much to the contrary. As Katie Kieffer writes in her column this week:

It costs taxpayers over $10,000 per year to educate the average public school student. For zero cost to the state and under $1,000 a year to themselves, parents can educate their child at home and the child will probably have better academic test scores. Last month, USA Today analyzed a 2009 National Home Education Research Institute study revealing that homeschooled students score higher than public school students by an of average of 37 percentile points.

So, besides the fact that the Department of Education is unconstitutional, there is no evidence that more money and federal control invariably produce smarter children. My brother is in medical school now and he was homeschooled through sixth grade.

(Note that money for the public school system is an unfair tax on those who make no use of it, whether because they have no children or because they opt to send their children to private or home schools.)

In a state of nature, government doesn’t exist, but the parent-child relationship still does. The decision of the people to form a government does not nor ever can obliterate the parent-child relationship or the obligations it creates. The family exists prior to government and, so, will always be the fundamental unit for organizing society. Parents have the right and responsibility to educate their children. That some parents do not take seriously that responsibility might be a reason for the next-nearest to a child to step in and fulfill the responsibility, but it’s not a reason to deny parental rights.

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