The Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education officially backed away from a controversial stance on science education that prompted a former editor-in-chief for National Geographic to of threatening to "out-dumb" Texas as "the laughing-stock of education.”
With a 4-0 vote, the board voted to revise its policy requiring teachers of the high school’s new advanced placement environmental sciences course to appear before the board to demonstrate political balance in the teaching of global warming. The new controversial subject matter policy no longer singles out environmental sciences teachers, and it emphasizes the need to teach students critical thinking skills.
Board Member Dr. Jeffrey Barke, who ignited international uproar last May by expressing skepticism of global warming and suggesting that liberal teachers couldn’t be trusted to include the conservative perspective, was absent for the vote.
Reached by phone after the meeting, Barke declined to comment.
In changing the policy, school board officials hope to dispel the perception that they would inject politics into science or that they lack faith in local teachers.
“We really do believe that gets to the true intent of the board,” the district’s Superintendent, Mark Johnson, said of the policy change.
Whatever the board’s intent last May when it voted to require Los Alamitos High School’s environmental sciences teacher to present the board with a balanced curriculum, it was overshadowed by Barke’s comments.
“Most teachers are left of center, and if we leave it to teachers to impose their liberal views, then it would make for an unbalanced lesson,”. “Some people believe that global warming is a crock of crap, and others are zealots.”
It took little more than a day for Barke’s comments to go viral, raining down media attention and criticism from around the globe. The criticism stung in Los Alamitos, a district that pride’s itself for the consistently top marks that landed Los Alamitos High School among in the nation.
School Board President Karen Russell said she hopes the new policy reflects the district’s commitment to rigorous study.
“The goal is to get kids thinking critically, to go through all the facts and decide what evidence was the most compelling,” she said.