California school textbooks call climate change into question, it has recently been revealed in a new study.
Experts at Stanford University reviewed 4 major textbooks employed while teaching science to sixth-grade children from California public schools.
One of the volumes was titled “Earth Science” and had been published by Holt, Winston & Rinehart, while the other three were called “Focus on Earth Science”, and had been released separately by Prentice Hall, Glencoe-McGraw-Hill and CPO Science.
Through a social semiotic approach to language, known as Systemic Functional Linguistics analysis, a total of 2,770 words were carefully dissected.
It was discovered that the authors of these study materials which are commonly used in Oakland and San Francisco had been extremely irresolute when referring to the topic of climate change, by avoiding to state with certainty that this phenomenon is actually real.
The authenticity of claims made by scientists regarding the scope and devastating consequences of extreme weather patterns had been challenged, leaving students to believe that climate change may not be a modern-day issue after all.
In addition, authors had shown reluctance in admitting that man-made activities such as the burning of fossil fuels or deforestation might be linked with unprecedented levels of global warming.
For example, they had introduced certain caveats, by stating that “some” scientists hold the belief that growing temperatures are actually a natural occurrence, resulting from Earth’s own climate cycles and oscillations.
According to Stanford University researchers, this wishy-washy attitude towards climate change had been achieved by employing numerous conditional clauses and statements, including words such as “may”, “could” or “might” when referring to this topic.
For instance, instead of firmly stating that climate change is happening, given that sea levels have risen, ice caps and snowpacks have dwindled, and air temperatures have escalated dramatically, the authors had preferred to simply say that these alterations may be occurring…or not.
These weak expressions resulted in promoting significant doubts and confusion regarding the validity of this phenomenon, and also regarding the urgent need to tackle it.
Moreover, some text fragments had focused on the positive implications of global warming, such as the fact that regions which are currently too cold for agriculture might eventually be converted into farmland. These benefits were countered by euphemistic, cosmeticized statements outlining that some other effects “are likely to be less positive”.
According to KC Busch, PhD candidate in science education at Stanford Graduate School of Education, this type of misleading information was probably used in an effort to adopt a neutral attitude, without taking sides in the political debate related to climate change.
However, such formulations can make children doubt that this is a topic they should be concerned with.
Moreover, employing such statements isn’t scientifically accurate, given that numerous studies have shown that global warming is an unfortunate reality of the contemporary world, and one that must be promptly addressed, for the sake of future generations and of our own survival as a species.
Given that science textbooks present climate change in such ambiguous terms, it’s no wonder that kids nowadays have trouble understanding this phenomenon and accepting its authenticity.
A survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication had shown that just 54% of American teenager believe global warming is currently taking place, and a mere 46% of them know that car emissions are a contributing factor to the greenhouse gas effect.
Moreover, as few as 35% of the respondents in this age group are aware that there is broad scientific consensus regarding climate change.
The accused publishing houses are yet to release a statement in response to the findings of this new study. It’s well worth mentioning, nevertheless, that the California State Board of Education has announced that starting from 2018 different textbooks will replace the ones that are currently employed.
Image Source: Pixabay