Monday, May 21, 2007

Today's lessons from global warming

Several weeks ago my oldest son came home from school upset at something that happened earlier that day. He's 12 and in the sixth grade. The subject of global warming came up in his Language Arts class and a substitute teacher, after learning my son isn't convinced global warming is man-made in part due to his and my discussions on the subject, told him in front of the class, "Well, apparently your father is ignorant."

My son wasn't offended for my sake (that would be wrong), but he rightly inferred from the substitute's comment that she was implying he was ignorant.

So here's the first thing we can learn from global warming--that being in the majority excuses people from exercising self control over what they say to others in the minority. Perhaps not a lesson to be taught in Language Arts but certainly a lesson worth talking about in Social Studies.

Social Studies

For too many children, the lessons of the civil rights movement, Jim Crow, and slavery before that are too distant for them to have first-hand knowledge of. What they do have first-hand knowledge of today, because we're in the middle of the debate is: What happens to minority opinions when politicians, Hollywood, and educators control the majority opinion?

The nice thing about global warming is students and open-minded teachers can discuss how the current state of affairs is similar to those of America's not-so-proud past, and no one's race, nationality, religion, skin color, or sexual preferences need to be offended. As a bonus the discussion avoids arguing the merits of anthropogenic global warming, requiring equal time, or relying on censored and politically correct and white-washed history books to lead the discussion for them.

Those last issues aren't critical to social studies, but they can be for Language Arts.

Language Arts

One of the issues alarming some is the apparent inability for college students to detect bias in what they read. Despite the availability of logic classes in college and some high schools, young adults can't always tell when they're being manipulated by media. In cases where it is impossible or impractical to give two sides of an argument equal time (ignoring a third or even fourth) it is important for students to detect bias in what they read, hear, and watch. Being able to identify the difference between weak and strong arguments, or logical and illogical ones, is important when time or material doesn't permit a more thorough investigation.

Science

Some things in life are easy to understand, easy to remember, but easy to dismiss when it doesn't suit our emotions. Lost in the wailing over rising gas prices is everything we learned about supply and demand. Nearly everyone knows what supply and demand is, nearly everyone remembers it, but it doesn't make us feel better about paying $3.49/gallon for regular unleaded.


The same principal can be applied to man-made global warming and the difference between theory and fact (or in physics, theories and laws). Except for a few recent uprisings related to evolution vs. creationism, the fact remains that the first is a theory and the second is a belief. Until science can re-create evolution or predict what man's next evolutionary improvement is going to be, evolution must remain a theory. It matters little how many scientists believe it. Consensus does not make fact.

Let's visit some consensus theories of the past and see how well they held up:
  • The sun revolves around the Earth
  • Heavier objects fall more quickly than lighter objects
  • The world is flat
  • Germans are inferior Romans
  • Europeans are inferior to Muslims
  • Africans are inferior to Europeans
  • Women are inferior to men (actually, that's still a tenet in some cultures)
  • There are eight... no, nine... no, eight planets in our solar system
And as recently as the 1972 a consensus of scientists believed the Earth was sliding into another ice age.

In the movie Men in Black, Agent K tells a young recruit that just learned extraterrestrial life exists:
"A person is smart. People are dumb. Everything they've ever "known" has been proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody knew as a fact, that the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
Now, when discussing man-made global warming and whether or not students must believe one way or another, teachers can reinforce the difference between theories and facts, and that theories don't require choosing sides. Teachers and school boards can reinforce mankind's responsibility for global warming is a theory, that increasing CO2 increases temperatures is a theory, circumstantial evidence does not equate to fact, consensus doesn't transform theory into fact, and guarding theories from criticism is bad science and bad policy.

And for that matter, bad law.

So without actually debating man-made global warming a lot can be learned just from how it's promoted. Its propaganda has lessons just as applicable to social studies and language arts as to science. And those lessons are just as worthwhile for students to learn as they are for adults to be reminded of.

6 comments:

  1. You sound like a homeschooler. LOL

    (And that's a compliment. LOL)

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  2. Thanks, Stefanie.

    Is it worthwhile making the point that all parents home-school their children, whether they go to school or stay home?

    Kids learn a lot from their parents. And sometimes it even makes us proud.

    Keep up the good work.

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  3. Look at the article titled Another Ice Age? that was published by Time magazine on June 24, 1974. Global warming and ice ages are just normal cycles of the atmosphere of the planet. I think it's just the egotistical "educated" that try to justify the weather pattern changes by saying it must be man-made. Who changed the weather patterns way back when? How did man get the earth out of the Ice Age before man existed?

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  4. Yes, that is the article I was referring to. Thank you for posting it. I was reminded of that article after hearing Paul W. Smith interview Dr. Timothy Ball several weeks ago on WJR.

    I think the interview references this article in the Canadian Free Press, or if not, at least mentions Dr. Ball contributes there.

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  5. Was there any consequence for the teacher's slanderous remark? Or were the students tacitly allowed to learn that ad hominem is a valid refutation?

    To a certain extent, the technique of teaching is more important than the content.

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  6. Eventually, the assistant principal met with both my son and the substitute to discuss the situation. She didn't remember saying anything, but apologized anyway.

    I believe she may not remember the incident. It didn't ruin her day. However, I hope she's more considerate in the future.

    ReplyDelete