School Board President Censors Science

Published September 1, 2009

Michael Kundu, a whale photographer and school board president in Marysville, Washington, apparently thinks he knows more about global warming than NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, and thousands of scientists. And he’s perfectly comfortable banning from “his” classrooms any scientific information that contradicts his opinions.

This surprising state of affairs came to light when Kundu received a copy of The Skeptic’s Handbook, by Australian science communicator Joanne Nova. The 16-page booklet challenges conventional wisdom about the causes and extent of global warming in an easy-to-read but scientifically rigorous fashion.

Copies of Nova’s booklet were sent to 14,000 public school board presidents across the U.S. by The Heartland Institute, publisher of School Reform News, accompanied by a letter from climate scientist Bob Carter, a professor at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

‘Stuff … into the Recycle Basket’

Kundu responded to the mailing by sending a blistering email to other school board presidents, on which he copied Carter. “I would encourage all of you to stuff that junk mail directly into the recycle basket,” he wrote.

“The publication recently sent out by the [Heartland] Institute is precisely the type of junk, pseudo-science publication that should be filtered out by all thinking school administrators,” Kundu wrote. “We’ve seen the efforts by radical creationists, anti-evolution activists, anti-union, white separatist and other fringe groups to subversively infiltrate public education—this mailing from the Heartland Institute is on a similar level.”

‘Offensive, Inaccurate’

Carter responded to Kundu with an email.

“As the president of a school district board,” Carter wrote, “you have a particular responsibility to encourage informed discussion on controversial matters of the day, rather than to denigrate in ignorant fashion one aspect of a complex, multi-sided argument of which you happen to disapprove.

“The Skeptic’s Handbook is a carefully and accurately written account of matters to do with contemporary climate change,” Carter wrote. “Every statement in it is founded in data contained in numerous research papers in refereed scientific journals.”

Kundu replied with a message accusing “groups like Heartland” of unethical behavior, and said, “I am sure the oil industry (I understand that they had another year of record profits) can provide you with significant funding.”

Heartland President Joseph Bast responded, noting “less than 5 percent [of Heartland’s funding] comes from all energy industries combined,” and “more than 100 academics and 150 elected officials participate in our research and education programs.”

When Kundu dismissed Bast’s email with a two-sentence response calling Heartland’s position on climate change “a fool’s errand,” Bast said, “One has to wonder if parents, teachers, and taxpayers in Marysville, Washington know how ill-informed and biased their school board president is.” Bast said in commenting on the exchange, “I suspect some of them would be quite alarmed to learn about this.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News, where an earlier version of this article appeared.

For more information …

“Email Correspondence with Michael Kundu, school board president in Marysville, Washington”:

The Skeptic’s Handbook, by Joanne Nova: