The National Post reports on an Ontario student who says he’s been subjected to An Inconvenient Truth in four different classes.
“I really don’t understand why they keep showing it,” says McKenzie (his parents asked that his last name not be used). “I’ve spoken to the principal about it, and he said that teachers are instructed to present it as a debate. But every time we’ve seen it, well, one teacher said this is basically a two-sided debate, but this movie really gives you the best idea of what’s going on.”
McKenzie says he has educated himself enough about both sides of the climate-change controversy to know that the Al Gore movie is too one-sided to be taught as fact.
Which is certainly true. An Inconvenient Truth is an essay with an argument to make, not a purely educational film that acknowledges a lot of weaknesses and unknowns. You can make a strong case for showing the film in schools, but not without context, and certainly not four times to the same kid.
Unfortunately, McKenzie’s argument goes a bit downhill from there.
His teachers are not much more discerning [than some of McKenzie’s classmates]. “They don’t know there’s another side to the argument,” he says. McKenzie’s mother was outraged to find out that Mr. Gore’s film was being presented as fact in her son’s classroom. “This is just being poured into kids’ brains instead of letting them know there’s a debate going on,” she says. “An educational system falls down when they start taking one side.”
This is awfully close to proposing that schools “teach the controversy,” the approach that anti-evolutionists propose for “balance” between the theory of evolution and “creation science” in public schools. Indeed, the Post digs up some people a little later on who propose to send copies of The Great Global Warming Swindle (the British documentary that interviews just about every scientist and pseudo-scientist in the world who dissents from the broad principles of climate-change science) to every school in the country, to balance An Inconvenient Truth.
The situation is awkward, and those who agree with the broad strokes of Gore’s film — as I do — do themselves no favours by treating the movie as though it were the gospel truth. It isn’t. It’s a good and important film, but it’s got flaws, and most importantly, it’s not even nominally impartial.
This comes via Treehugger, where a commenter points out a Washington Post story about the U.S. National Science Teachers Association declining 50,000 copies of the film on the grounds that if they accepted, they’d have a hard time turning down similar offers from other interest groups with video tracts to distribute.
Consider, for instance, if such an offer came from the Center for Scientific Creation. What they promote isn’t necessarily 100-per-cent hooey — there are gaps in the scientific understanding of the earth’s geologic and biologic histories, even if you can’t reasonably conclude from them that the theory of evolution is bogus — so why should their work be beyond the pale of public-school education while Gore’s imperfect film isn’t? Where would the line be?