Monday, May 21, 2007

Would this count as indoctrination?

High Schooler forced to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" in four different classes.

18 comments:

dcat said...

No. It would not count as indoctrination. Especially since "An Inconvenient Truth" seems to backed by some fairly heavy science -- the assumption that Gore and his critics are equally valid on global warming is sophistry. Even if you do not agree with the film, using texts you do not agree with does not equal indoctrination.

dcat

Paul said...

Wow, I guess the debate is over then.

greg said...

I wouldn't call it indoctrination as much as I would call it a very poor choice of resources. Al Gore's "study" relies too heavily on anecdotal evidence and non-sequiturs and therefore does a disservice to the whole idea of conservation. A teacher using An Inconvenient Truth to teach science is tantamount to a history teacher using Oliver Stone's JFK to teach history.

dcat said...

Wait a second -- An Inconvenient Truth comparable to JFK? Please. We can debate it as a source. (The consensus in the scientific community seems to be that his movie is a fairly good popular treatment of the subject, which is what it claims to be.) But to compare it to JFK, which is simply ahistorical and at points demonstrably false? No way.

dcat

greg said...

OK, maybe JFK is a stretch. But there are much better sources out there to explain the changing climate. Gore's video is a cop-out by teacher's who are jumping on the bandwagon and don't know any better sources.

Paul said...

Global Warming: Where did this issue come from? (it wasn't here 30 years ago. wait...it was, but it was called global cooling. and 200 years ago it was called the population principle.) Why the alarmism? (which is what Gore's movie is) Why the unwillingness to debate? (the assumption that Gore and his critics are equally valid on global warming is sophistry) Where is the skepticism toward this issue? Why the blind faith toward a hypocritical, Malthusian, ex-VP who preaches alarmism? (10 years left to save the planet!!! The planet has a fever!!!)

dcat said...

Paul --
The debate has overwhelmingly been settled by every climate scientist of any reputation at all. there was never the sort of consensus on global cooling that there is on the issue of warming -- even some of the longterm skeptics of global warming now acknowledge that it is happening. What they debate -- and what we ought to debate -- is how to address the issue. Yes -- it is sophistry to assert that Gore and his critics are on equal footing. (It is simply stupid to elevate scientific beliefs of 200 years ago to claim that the consensus now might be flawed.)

My faith is not blind -- unless, of course, you can show me where I have written that Gore ought to be our only source -- even the main source -- on this issue, which of course you cannot. Because I have done no such thing.

The issue is whether using Gore's documentary counts as "indoctrination." (Hint as to how to discern whether that is the issue: the title of the post consists of the words "Would this count as indoctrination?") It does not. But if the question is should we teach that global warming is only one of many competing theories all of which the scientific community believes are equally valid, then no, we should not, any more than we should teach that evolution is merely one of many competing theories.

Settle down, Paul. Your anti-Gore tirades are clouding your better judgment. Or simply be straightforward: Do you deny that global warming exists? Do you deny that it poses dangers that we ought to address?

dcat

greg said...

Global warming, whatever. I've yet to be convinced that we are the root cause of any and all environmental change that is occurring with regards to the earth's temperature. Are there changes happening? Yes. Are we the cause? Irrelevant. We shouldn't have to hear from the fire -breathing Gore and his Hurricane Katrina slideshow...errr...his movie in order to take a closer look at our relationship to our environment. There are plenty of sources much better than Gore that do a better job of explaining that relationship, why we should care about it and how we can improve it.

Personally, I think George W. Bush's challenge to the nation's scientists to invent and innovate technology that will end our dependence on foreign oil did far more for conservation than did Gore's movie (and his lifestyle - let's face it, the two cannot be viewed separately). By framing the idea of conservation in terms of national security, Bush got alot of people to think about the concept for the first time and maybe even start inspecting their own wasteful habits. After reading Gore's book and watching the movie, all I wanted to do was stay away from the gulf states during the late summer and fall.

Robert C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert C. said...

I erased my first post.

Even if An Inconvenient Truth is scientifically imprecise and, at times, somewhat alarmist, I'm glad it exists. The movie is flawed, and I wish it were more accurate. But the phenomenon it describes is real. The consequences of global warming will very bad for us. So say our best scientists. No other film has done as much to make this issue important to people.

Perhaps a viewing of An Inconvenient Truth in the classroom should be followed by a discussion of its accuracy and class research into what can and should be done about global warming. That would be great. I don't think global warming has anything to fear from scientific inquiry.

In other words, watching a movie is never going to be as academically rigorous as actually studying an issue. Actually, make that: Watching a movie is never academically rigorous.

I think global warming is real, and I think it's probably caused by humans, and I think we should work hard to stop it. But I can also see that it would be easy to use Gore's movie to indoctrinate students rather than making them think about the subject and study it. That doesn't mean Gore's wrong.

If McKenzie's Environment Science class did a five-week study of climate change which reviewed science and led students to the unmistakeable conclusion that climate change is real, and which examined but dismissed counter-arguments, and ended up concluding that the vast majority of scientific evidence suggests that this isn't a debate but is settled science... well, that would be something approaching academic rigor, and I would like that much better than lazy teachers showing kids one movie four times in a single year. But McKenzie and his mom would still dislike the class for not presenting both sides equally.

Showing "An Inconvenient Truth" four times in a year could be indoctrination. I'm more concerned about what it's not: it's not education. And showing AIT and then contrasting it with "The Great Global Warming Swindle" sounds even dumber. I don't believe that that kind of balance is actually informative. Here's an idea for Canadian teachers/projectionists: teach the subject instead of showing a movie about it.

Stephen said...

But should a kid be forced to watch it in four classes?

Paul said...

I brought up Malthus to make the point that there is a history of "the sky is falling" types who are willing to use scare tactics to convince otherwise sane people to believe in some cockamamie theory. For this, you called me stupid. Oh well.
I guess I'm also stupid for deviating from the original post title (oh, the horror- how stupid of me), but wait...I was just responding to how you framed the debate in your original post. Something along the lines of "the question is settled and the criticisms of Gore are invalid." So I decided to present some criticisms of Gore. He's an energy hog and a snake oil salesman. And I'm not buying.
I believe in climate change, but I don't think it's a result of human behavior. It's frustrating standing in front of a classroom and being told by high schoolers that I should be recycling paper and not throwing it away, or I'm destroying the planet by driving an SUV because somewhere along the line they were shown AIT four times. (Back to the original post title- happy?)

Paul said...

Stephen: Especially in World History. Is there really a place for AIT in that class. I could see the environment or current events class. But, world history?

Stephen said...

...especially when you know that they didn't cover a bunch of stuff that they should have covered.

dcat said...

Paul --
When did I call you stupid? I said that one of your arguments was stupid. It was. There is a difference and it is not a minor one. Try, for once, Paul, to show a modicum of intellectual integrity. You assert that I argued that "the question is settled and the criticisms of Gore are invalid," which of course I did not. Ever. If you have to misrepresent my argument to make your point, you have fairly serious integrity issues.

Second, the movie was shown in four classes, but from what I can tell the teachers all came up with the decision in different classes independently. I'm assuming that very few of us can speak to the books or movies that our colleagues utilize so if we were to overlap, it would almost assuredly be coincidence. If you think there was some conspiracy, the burden is on you to prove it. Again -- this really is first day of Logic 101 stuff -- the person making the affirmative argument bears the burden of proof.

Of course the movie is flawed. Please tell me the flawless source that you all have discovered. The perfect book? Your lectures are all beyond reproach? You have never raised a provocative question in class? But the idea that a movie can never be rigorous or that it cannot be part of a larger exploration of a topic is simply wrong. I use documentaries (though I have not used an Inconvenient Truth) and find them not only to be useful but in some cases vital sources. They should be part of a larger curriculum in which reading and discussion and lectures are central, but a good documentary (or feature film, or novel, or whatever) can be vital.

Finally, the idea that humans have had no impact on the climate change around us is something that almost every one of those scientists who have shown that global warming is a reality also agree upon. Now how much of it is due to humans is up for debate, but not that we are playing a role.

I have no idea what role the movie plays in a world history class either. But there is a difference between bad and lazy teaching and indoctrination. I'm not certain why this point, seemingly obvious, is so problematic to the knee-jerk dogmatists who see a liberal conspiracy at every turn.

dcat

greg said...

Again, I wouldn't call it indoctrination. If I were asked to show it in any of my classes I would protest, not becasue I want to shelter my students from the vast conspiracy theory that is global warming, but because I don't want Al Gore as the spokesperson for environmentalism, global warming or conservation. He gives it a bad name by using faulty evidence and not "walking the walk." I'd rather listen to the many scientists who have real, verifiable evidence (not just pictures of the flooded streets of New Orleans) AND who practice what they preach.

Instead of assigning teachers to show the film in their classes, the administration of this high school should encourage its teachers to address the controversy by using reputable resources that they themselves have researched. Using Gore's film is a cop-out for teachers who don't understand the issue but want to bring it to their students attention and don't know how else to do it. It would be like teaching civil rights by showing Remember the Titans over and over again.

Stephen said...

I wonder if the world history class spent more time covering the Ming Dynasty, or the Ottoman Empire than was spent watching the movie. I wonder if his economics class spent more time on the depression, or Adam Smith. I wonder if the world issues class covered Tibet or Darfur. And in a class dedicated to studying the environment, one would think a documentary would be too general to be of good use. My guess is that these teachers were trying to indoctrinate their students--just a guess based on a lifetime in academics.

Stephen said...

...and meeting people like this guy:
http://www.dabush.org/From%20the%20Right/from_the_right.htm