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Changing climate and flattening Earth: Teaching science in a ‘fake news’ world

Patrick Engleman
Avi Wolfman-Arent (WHYY/NewsWorks)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

A glossy booklet with an intriguing title recently turned up in Patrick Engleman’s mailbox. "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming," it proclaimed.

A cover letter packaged with the book told recipients to "consider the possibility that the science in fact is not ‘settled’" when it comes to the causes of climate change. Further, "students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists on how big the human impact on climate is, and whether or not we should be worried about it."

The letter was signed by Lennie Jarratt of the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that disputes the mainstream scientific theory that human-caused climate change poses a serious planetary threat.

The surprise here isn’t the content, but rather the audience.

Engleman is a ninth-grade physics and chemistry teacher in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and he is one of thousands of teachers who’ve received this primer on climate science. The Heartland Institute said it’s sending one of these books to every public school and college science teacher in the country — about 300,000 copies, according to spokesman Jim Lakely.

When Engleman received his copy, he was outraged. As someone who agrees with prevailing scientific thought on climate change and its causes, Engleman stewed as he thought about how this information might be deployed in other science classrooms.

"It’s not that I’m the best science teacher in the world. It’s not that I know everything," he said. "It’s that someone’s going to get this and think this is real."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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