A New Climate Threat: “Academic Freedom” Laws

TD Lysenko: A favorite of Stalin and the patron saint of climate deniers
TD Lysenko: A favorite of Stalin and the patron saint of climate deniers

The other day I suggested that climate advocates ought to start working in school board elections as a way of building long term political support for vigorous climate action.

Well, it looks like they will need to start playing defense as well.  October’s Scientific American reports that climate deniers are now pushing the Orwellian “academic freedom” laws,

which allow for the use of information only on creationist sites, many of which teach that the earth is not billions of years old, or from climate change contrarian think tanks, which attribute the recent trend in warming not to an increase in greenhouse gases but rather to unstoppable solar cycles.  Students would also learn that the pre-industrial revolution Medieval Warming Period refutes anthropogenic global warming — even though it was merely a regional warming event.  Scientists do not give these view credence, but that does not keep them from appearing in lesson plans to dispute the fact that human activity has affected the earth’s climate.

One wonders how far such “academic freedom” laws go: if a second-grade teacher wants to teach her students about the wondrous medical effects of leeches, would that apply?  Perhaps the phlogiston theory of combustion?  The genius of Trofim Lysenko?

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Reader Comments

5 Replies to “A New Climate Threat: “Academic Freedom” Laws”

  1. Ha! As long as they aren’t used for everything, as they were in the Middle Ages, I’m okay with it. But of course I would insist on scientific evidence, and for climate deniers, that’s a no-no….

  2. Could be used for anti-vaxers too. Worrying all around. Tricky balance between free speech, scientific truth, and protecting students from misinformation.

  3. “…climate deniers are now pushing the Orwellian “academic freedom” laws…”

    That’s our latest gimmick and it seems to working. Our cause has gained momentum and we appreciate the recognition.

  4. “protecting students from misinformation” reissd

    That’s odd. I always thought the idea behind “education” was to teach students to think critically for themselves. I didn’t realize it’s designed to protect students from information the Academic Establishment doesn’t like.

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About Jonathan

Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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