School Board Prez Censors Science

Published August 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 all 14,000 public school board presidents by The Heartland Institute, publisher of Environment & Climate 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,” Kundu asserted.

‘Offensive, Inaccurate’

Carter responded to Kundu with an email saying “you must … be aware that the letter is offensive in tone, inaccurate in content, and manages in spectacular fashion to throw the baby out of the bathwater.

“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 also 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 producing a “fog of propaganda … for the benefit of unethical industries pursuing capital gains.” He compared Carter and Heartland to fraudulent researchers Hwang Woo-suk, Luk Van Parijs, Jon Sudbo, and William Summerlin, and ended his message saying “I am sure the oil industry (I understand that they had another year of record profits) can provide you with significant funding …”

Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, then entered the dialogue, explaining that “less than 5 percent [of Heartland’s funding] comes from all energy industries combined,” and that “none of our work is ‘propaganda.’ More than 100 academics and 150 elected officials participate in our research and education programs.”

Kundu dismissed Bast’s email with a two-sentence response calling the institute’s position on climate change “a fool’s errand.”

Do Parents and Teachers Know?

“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.”

On her Web site at, Nova wrote, “It’s a shame that a man brave enough to enter Siberia covertly to film slaughtered whales and expose Russian censorship is hypocritically censoring views in U.S. schools on something as important as climate science. Is he really a fighter to get out the whole story? Not if he’s been fooled by the propaganda himself.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

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