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This article was originally published in The Progressive.
The announcement on June 1 by President Donald Trump that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement defies everything we know about the science of climate change. It also left science teachers everywhere grappling with how to present this important subject to their students.
Trump ignores the advice of scientists and justifies his actions with his belief there are “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made matters worse when she joined in Trump’s exercise in science denial.
“President Trump is making good on his promise to put America and American workers first,” she declared, endorsing the U.S. withdrawal from the climate accord.
The President and the person in charge of all of our nation’s public schools are explicitly undermining science. What is a teacher to do?
I asked one of my daughter’s high school science teachers, Adam Croft at Nova High School in the central district of Seattle, what he thought.
This is what he wrote to me:
“Since his June 1, 2017 announcement, my students have not stopped talking about President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. All school year, we have been inquiring into the meaning of our planet’s changing climate. . . . We observe shifting conditions in our local forests and waters, study climate data, question guest experts, envision possible sustainable and just futures, and challenge each other to take responsible action.
To them, and to me, the President’s decision is a cruel injustice to those most vulnerable to climate change. My students are angry and frightened and I am humbled by the fact that most of them have only deepened their commitment to do what Trump will not: honestly explore and enact how best to live on Earth.
As a teacher of science, I am responsible for facilitating this inquiry of my students. I work to scaffold their research, experiments, writing, presentations, discussions, community service, and other learning so that all of them can access this inquiry. I continuously assess their progress and give them the feedback necessary to further their investigations. And I join my students in rooting out and dismantling the gross and subtle ways systems of oppression work to disrupt our learning community.”
Croft sees DeVos’s statement supporting the decision to withdraw as “a clear signal that our essential work as educators will not be supported under this administration.”
But Croft’s students give him hope. “Part of the beauty of scientific inquiry is that once you start to engage the world in authentic questioning, each answer elicits more questions.”
The young people he works with don’t need anyone telling them what they can and cannot learn, Croft says. But he hopes all Americans will give serious thought to how to support our students and their schools in an increasingly hostile climate.
-Dora Taylor and Jeff Bryant