Climate change instruction in the Rust Belt: a touchy topic

The New York Times dropped a long narrative story Sunday about teaching climate change in school — and pushback from skeptical students.

The setting for the narrative is rural Wellston, Ohio, described by writer Amy Harmon as a Trump-supporting and “former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act.” The story follows tense exchanges between science teacher James Sutter and Gwen Beatty, a student who eventually wound up bolting Sutter’s class in favor of an online science course.

“Why would I lie to you?” Sutter said during one class, according to Harmon. “It’s not like I’m making a lot of money here.”

At one point, Harmon reported, Gwen shared her frustrations with her classmates. “It’s like you can’t disagree with a scientist or you’re ‘denying science.”’

There is a bigger context to the story. Teachers such as Sutter are forced to improvise when it comes to teaching climate change.

Said Harmon, “Some 20 states, including a handful of red ones, have recently begun requiring students to learn that human activity is a major cause of climate change, but few, if any, have provided a road map for how to teach it, and most science teachers, according to one recent survey, spend at most two hours on the subject.”

Not surprisingly, there’s an Idaho sighting in the story — a reference to the 2017 Legislature’s deletion of five science standards addressing climate change.




Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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