TAP Day 1: The slide show ‘set’ and climate skeptics
First day back and I’m beat by this evening, eyes feel scratchy with fatigue and the Xmas tree still not taken down!
Showed the slide show 1 “What is Our Future?” with Barber’s Adagio to six classes and that takes a bit of an emotional toll right there, with the little boy looking into a fearful future and water coming over the top of a levee in New Orleans. Barber’s Adagio is the saddest music I’ve ever heard, a dark journey through ragged grief. (See our website for a copy of this slide show with the mp3 of the music. It’s at the end of the “Teacher Resources” page.)
I gave just a little context to the show, something like “This is the set up for your “Take Action Project”. Tomorrow, you’ll be learning about the science behind today’s slide show, and seeing some projects from last year, then we’ll be looking at actions we’d like to take. But for now, draw the blinds, put all your work away, get comfy and just watch. No notes, no homework.” That was it – too much talk might feel coercive. I ran it to end just before the bell, leaving them with images and ideas to sit with over night. I needed to feel the seriousness before being galvanized into action’ and then the action is a relief. Maybe they do too.
Most classes were pin-drop quiet watching it but I don’t know how they took it yet. One student said they heard they were going to be watching something really sad. Another came up to me and told me all about a Disney-sponsored drive to save the environment. Can’t remember exactly which, but she’s bringing in details for Wednesday’s class on hope and actions. But mostly they just filed out quietly.
Our two VPs came in to see it – I’m glad they did because one student was quite upset telling his table mates afterward “This is just to make kids upset – there’s no evidence AT ALL for humans causing global warming!” so there may be some parent blow-back. I chatted with him before he left.
I know getting him to bring in alternative evidence etc. is going to be like arguing with creationists – it will end up by solidifying his position and turning him off the class and science, maybe for life. So I took a breath and remembered that he’s 12 years old and has probably heard his parents on the subject. I can’t make it a them-or-me debate. But I can quietly set his expectation that in a science class, we will learn about the explanation for global warming and the evidence for human involvement, based on the research of thousands of scientists worldwide. He doesn’t have to believe it, or agree, but he will be expected to learn the information and understand it. Similar argument for intelligent design vs evolutionary theory. I don’t expect he will be able to keep an open mind to the evidence, but I asked him to.
It’s tempting to let one difficult encounter like that color the way that I teach an issue to everyone else. But that gives undue weight to the minority view and it’s not fair to the scientific consensus and the majority of my students. I’m more able to stick to my science guns by avoiding head-on confrontation. In the same way that I could go to a bible study class and have to know parts of the scripture and Christian theology for a test, without the requirement that I necessarily believe it. Still, not really looking forward to my in-box tomorrow…
We definitely need community around this kind of tricky encounter. I imagine that in the Bay Area, I’ll have less to deal with than other parts of the country. How have you dealt with this issue? Share your wisdom and/or get some support – more than one other person is reading this blog and there are several of us on the Facebook page.