California Considers Imposing Climate Change Education

Published March 2, 2020

A bill under consideration in the California legislature would require schoolchildren to learn humans are causing dangerous climate change, in order to graduate.

A.B. 1922 would require a climate change curriculum for students in grades 1 through 6, and knowledge of climate change would become a graduation requirement for students in grades 7 through 12, beginning in 2025.

If the legislation passes, California teachers will have to begin teaching climate change coursework no later than the 2021-22 school year. 

‘Unbalanced Political Indoctrination’

California’s proposed climate change education requirement is likely to be limited to making a case for climate alarm, says Lance Izumi, a senior director for the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute.

“Recent California curriculum changes have been shown to be unbalanced political indoctrination rather than real attempts to improve student knowledge and learning,” Izumi said. 

 “I worry this will be true for this climate-change curriculum mandate, as well.

“Will all sides of the climate-change debate be presented in a fair and balanced way with students feeling safe and free to challenge aspects of the curriculum?” Izumi asked. “Given the biased nature of California’s ethnic studies curriculum and other curriculum decisions, one has to question seriously whether California intends to teach climate change in a fair, objective, and open manner.”

‘Riddled with Political Indoctrination’

California’s public schools are increasingly teaching what to think, not how to think, says Williamson M. Evers, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute.

“The K-12 curriculum in California is getting more and more riddled with political indoctrination, a major problem in history, ethnic studies, and sex education,” Evers said.

“During the reform era of the late 1990s, when standards and accountability were emphasized, California’s science content standards were deliberately written to teach the science in a way allowing students to understand and evaluate rival global-warming claims and proposed solutions,” Evers said. “Teachers weren’t allowed to teach policy conclusions.

“Now California legislators want to require students to be indoctrinated and turned into advocates and activists,” Evers said.

‘Teach the Scientific Method’

California isn’t the only state considering requiring schools to impose the view that humans are causing a climate crisis, says Lennie Jarratt, project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“Climate alarm is being pushed in many state legislatures, where legislators are attempting to force a politicized ideology onto students trapped in government schools,” Jarratt said. “Teachers should not be forced to teach a politicized, ideological view of climate change.

“Teachers—in this case science teachers—should teach the scientific method, allowing students to follow the science where it leads,” Jarratt said.

Calls for School Choice

The best way to prevent politics from taking over the classroom is to grant parents the power to remove their children from schools that teach in politically biased ways, Jarratt says.

“Students should not be forced to sit in political classrooms,” Jarratt said. “They should have the choice to move to a school teaching facts, not ideology.”

Izumi agrees the best way to prevent biased curricula in government-run public schools is to increase education choice options for parents and their children.

“Bias in the public schools is rampant, and the only way parents and their children can truly escape these ingrained institutional biases is to take advantage of school-choice options such as charter schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling,” Izumi said.

Even for homeschoolers there may be no escape, because of statewide testing mandates, Evers says.

“School choice can help parents find a school that offers courses that are sensible and accurate about the environment, but there remains a danger authorities may require statewide testing for all students to graduate, in which the only correct answers are politically correct ones,” Evers said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.