Today over at The Conscious Earth, there’s a post about Heather Stillwell, hyper-conservative rabble rouser:
As Conscious Earth visitors read last month, free copies of An Inconvenient Truth were made available to every high school in British Columbia thanks to the charitable contribution of the Tides Canada Foundation. Now, Surrey school trustee Heather Stilwell wants the widely discredited mockumentary The Great Global Warming Swindle to be shown alongside Al Gore’s global warming documentary.
If you read on in that post (or this one or this one), you’ll see that Ms. Stillwell fancies the contrarian limelight (would that be the lemon light?). And why do all the conservative nutters seem to live in Surrey? Hmm…in truth, I guess there are a few in my childhood home of West Vancouver, too.
I should clarify my ambiguity in that last paragraph. All conservatives are not nutters, nor are all Surreyites (Surreyans? Surreydanavians?). However, it seems like all the Lower Mainland nutters who are conservative come from Surrey. Onward.
In circumstances like this, the Heather Stillwells of the world appeal to our rationalism by calling for ‘both sides of the story’ to be told in schools. That theory has always appealed to me, but obviously isn’t practical on every single issue we teach. Is smoking really bad for you? Was Shakespare actually a nobleman? Do muons really exist? High school would stretch into our early thirties.
Really, it’s a question of scientific consensus. I think that if there’s an academic consensus on a subject (say, gravity), then we should just teach it. Teachers ought to be open to debate on the subject, but they law shouldn’t require them to cover the Holocaust and moon landing deniers for every fact.
Like evolution (but unlike, say, the creation of the universe), I believe there’s a scientific consensus on climate change. The dissenting minority is loud but shrinking. So, I think it’s
germaine germane that we show students “An Inconvenient Truth” or a similar film, and not feel obligated to dedicate another ninety minutes to the opposing viewpoint. They should probably discuss the political and public relations debate being carried out in the offline and online media around the world, but in this case they don’t need to give opposing viewpoints equal weight.
Schools must foster debate, but they have to pick their spots. I remember in Geography 12, Ryan Jaye, Albert Kaan and I made a kick-ass video about nuclear power. I believe we came out in favour of it, and got an A. I don’t recall if there was much debate or not.
What was (or is) up for debate at your school?