This winter, a small group of advocates, teachers, parents and students began meeting each week at a church in Portland, Ore., to figure out how their schools could do a better job of preparing the next generation to fight climate change. Together, they wrote a resolution that, with some changes, was unanimously adopted by the Portland Public School Board on May 17. The district, the board resolved, "will abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities." But a few days after the vote, the story took on a life of its own, mostly outside Portland: Some websites called the move a "ban" on specific books, while another claimed that the district would scan its libraries and remove all books that weren't up to snuff. One of the advocates fielded emails calling him an "idiot" and a "d-bag."
More than 800 public school teachers involved in textbook selections for local schools were rewarded for giving publishers feedback on textbooks undergoing government screening, the education ministry said Thursday. Of the public school teachers whom publishers showed their textbooks being screened by the government, 1,009 were involved in the municipal processes to select textbooks for local schools. Of them, 818 received monetary or other rewards from publishers, according to a ministry survey. In 99 cases, textbooks shown to teachers were newly adopted through the selection processes in which the teachers were involved. But the ministry said it could not confirm any unfair practices in these cases, concluding that the selection procedures "were not affected."
Some teachers have already started sending emails to parents saying they will provide work for students during the two weeks after March Break, as boards await details from the government over the unprecedented, province-wide school shutdown. Education Minister Stephen Lecce is expected to soon provide direction on alternative learning plans for kids, given they don't return to school until April 6 in a bid to help contain the spread of COVID-19. A ministry source said while plans are still in the works, boards will be expected to encourage teachers to "prepare and keep in touch with students." So far, boards have only been saying that educators must be "available" during the two-week hiatus. On Thursday, Lecce took the unprecedented step of ordering that all 4,800 public schools in the province be shut down for two weeks following next week's March Break, impacting two million students.
To the editor: The Portland, Ore., school district is right to rid its textbooks of the manufactured doubt regarding the science of climate change. Groups like the Heartland Institute have been spinning misinformation and outright lies about the reality of climate change for too long. They are funded by the carbon-based energy industry, the very people who profit from selling dirty energy that is causing our planet to get warmer. Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely states that the kids are being "indoctrinated instead of taught how the scientific method works." This is classic "merchant of doubt" doublespeak.
When schools closed this spring, many parents, including me, felt overwhelmed and underwater trying to help our children participate in distance learning. Every day seemed to usher in a new way for my husband and me to fail at reading emails, managing logins, printing worksheets, troubleshooting tech problems, photographing assignments, and keeping track of class Zooms. Being an educator as well as a parent gave my experience a particularly nightmarish quality, as if I were somehow both the driver and pedestrian in this collision. As a teacher, I participated in a flurry of trainings on using various apps to make videos, find e-books, host meetings, use data, and share student work, but as a parent, I could not keep up. It doesn't have to be this hard.