An Oregon school board that banned books expressing climate-change “doubt” has come under fire from free-speech advocates who accuse the district of attempting to indoctrinate students by stifling debate.
The National Coalition Against Censorship described the May 17 resolution adopted by the Portland Public Schools, as “dangerously over-broad, potentially affecting a wide range of valuable educational materials,” despite its “good intentions.”
“Purging the curriculum of this kind of material will undermine public education, which should equip students for critical and informed consideration of important matters of public policy and controversy,” the NCAC said in a Friday statement.
The school board approved unanimously a resolution after a presentation by the climate-change group 350PDX that directs the district to develop “an implementation plan so that there is curriculum and educational opportunities that address climate change and climate justice in all Portland Public Schools.”
“The implementation plan should include a review of current textbooks for accuracy around the severity of the climate crisis and the impact of human activities,” said the board’s resolution. “PPS will abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.”
The state’s largest newspaper, the Oregonian, blasted the resolution in a May 26 editorial, arguing that “indoctrinating students in this fashion is a mistake.”
“The board’s climate-change resolution is not intended to teach students to think critically, which is what schools should do. It’s designed, instead, to produce acolytes,” said the editorial.
“A student might conclude that a propane-export terminal, for example, would help low-income people by providing jobs and tax revenue a whole lot more than it would hurt them by contributing marginally to global warming,” the editorial said. “If you believe there will be room for such opinions — not to mention support for students who utter them — in Portland’s ‘climate literate’ schools, we have a terminal to sell you.”
Climate-change activist David Appell swung back with a Monday op-ed in the Oregonian headlined, “On climate change, no need to teach both sides.”
“If I were a Portland public school teacher, I would happily give my pupils a good, long hard look at the contrarian’s positions on global warming — and show them exactly why they are full of holes, of tricks and poor science that don’t agree with observations, and why man’s emission of greenhouse gases are a far superior hypothesis to explain what’s going on,” Mr. Appell said.
A slew of letters appearing Tuesday in the Portland Tribune featured praise from locals who commended the board for standing up to “corporate hacks and their shills” and having the “courage to identify untruth and beginning to rectify this issue with sensitivity and hope.”
Climate skeptic Eric Worrall described the resolution as part of a “longstanding alarmist obsession with attempting to stifle and suppress dissenting views and access to raw data.”
“The real question is, why do the Portland Public School Board, and other Climate Alarmists, feel so threatened by alternative interpretations of the data?” said Mr. Worrall in a Monday post on the climate website Watts Up With That.
“I don’t feel threatened by the views of people who think we are on the brink of a climate apocalypse — I spend a significant amount of my personal time researching and publicizing their views, so people can see how silly they are,” he said.
The Portland Public Schools did not return immediately Tuesday a request for comment.
The NCAC also warned that the resolution gives the appearance of being driven by “political pressure, rather than pedagogical considerations, because it represents the views of environmental groups that have lobbied the school board for many years.”
“Curricular decisions that appear to be a result of political pressure are suspect no matter from which political side the pressure comes,” said coalition.