Where I live, for multiple days in the past month the air has been hazy and scented with smoke and the sky cast in a menacing sepia tone. It was like something straight out of a dystopian novel. Huge storms have battered many parts of the world. July was the hottest month ever recorded. The world is on fire.
For decades, scientists have warned us about the dangers of a warming planet and climate change. They have presented clear evidence collected through the scientific method that human activity is causing rapid changes.
Yeah, but science. We really can’t trust science. We can’t trust the scientific method because it’s a systematic approach to acquiring knowledge through careful observation, formulation of hypotheses, testing through controlled experiments, and drawing conclusions. And we can’t trust scientists who replicate the experiments of other scientists in order to validate their findings—because we can’t trust science.
So screw the scientific method and say hello to the political method: right-wing politicians telling us that science is misleading us. These politicians are our elected leaders; they must be right.
Some scientific explanations conflict with our religious beliefs. Conclusion: those explanations must be wrong.
A lot of us lack scientific literacy. We should never believe things we don’t fully understand (unless it’s our religious beliefs).
Maybe our best hope to work our way out of this is by educating the young. That’s what the state of Florida has decided to do. They’re making available a treasure trove of video content from Prager University to help shape the impressionable young minds of schoolchildren so they can better understand urgent topics such as human causes of climate change.
Spoiler alert: Prager University isn’t really a university. They’re not accredited in any way. They don’t grant degrees. But they have a nifty nickname and call themselves PragerU.
Florida became the first state to accept PragerU as an official education vendor. They were approved by the esteemed Florida Department of Education, which said that PragerU “aligned with the state’s revised civics and government standards.” Public school teachers in Florida can now incorporate PragerU videos into their classroom materials.
What are these videos? All kinds of topics, including climate change. Many PragerU videos promote the use of fossil fuels, criticize the use of renewable energy sources, and dispute the scientific consensus on climate change.
A little research (or is that too science-y?) reveals that PragerU is an advocacy group and media organization that promotes conservative viewpoints by producing “educational” videos that distort science, history, gender, and other topics. It was founded in 2009 and received its initial funding from a couple of hydraulic fracking billionaires.
PragerU CEO Marissa Streit has said the videos will rebalance schools that have been “hijacked by the left.”
“Young kids are being taught climate hysteria,” Streit said in an interview. “They’re hearing that the world is coming to an end, and we think that there needs to be a healthy balance.”
What does that healthy balance look like? The publication Scientific American (there’s that suspicious science concept again!), described one of the videos:
An eight-minute video, “Poland: Ania’s Energy Crisis,” exemplifies how PragerU introduces climate denialism to children by subtly attacking established science and the people concerned about global warming. In the video, teenager Ania is concerned about climate change because of what she learned at school. The fossil fuel industry’s climate-denial talking points are introduced almost verbatim in the trusted voice of Ania’s mother and father. Ania’s parents tell her that the climate has always cooled and warmed — “long before carbon emissions were a factor” — and that climate action is pointless until China and India cut their emissions. Ania also hears that renewable energy is unreliable and too expensive. Ania repeats her parent’s claims in class and is shunned by her teacher and classmates. Her sadness lifts, however, when her grandfather tells her about life under Nazism in World War II. Ania feels empowered because her grandfather says “fighting oppression always takes courage.”
This climate change instruction is going to be a perfect companion to Florida’s new way of teaching kids about slavery in history class. The Florida curriculum now has a section about the duties and trades performed by enslaved people, and the instruction now includes “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
I see it. Slaves developed the skill of walking in chains. That came in handy when they wanted to shuffle meekly in front of their masters. They developed the skills of being physically beaten and raped. Who can’t see the benefits of living in constant fear and losing all hope?
Science and civics in the morning. History in the afternoon. Pay attention, kids. Your future depends on it.
Oh, Florida, you fucking meatheads. You can’t be underwater soon enough.