Political brainwashing endangers Marysville schools’ funding

Students in Marysville public schools are supposed to be learning not just the 3 R’s but also how to think “analytically, logically, and creatively,” to “integrate different experiences and knowledge to form reasoned judgments,” and “to explore and understand different perspectives.”

But not when it comes to global warming.

Marysville School District Board President Michael Kundu vowed recently to stifle legitimate and balanced scientific instruction on that subject, putting the district at risk of violating state law and educational standards and risking the loss of state basic education funding.

Kundu was among 13,600 public school board presidents who received The Skeptic’s Handbook from The Heartland Institute. It’s a 16-page booklet featuring a point-counterpoint of “alarmist” versus “skeptical” positions on global warming. It came with a letter from James Cook University Professor Bob Carter. Noting educators often ignore data that cast doubt on global warming theory, Carter urged board presidents to make sure their students are instructed with balanced science.

Kundu responded with a vitriolic, defamatory rant against Heartland in an unsolicited e-mail he sent to other school board presidents, falsely characterizing the 25-year-old organization as an extremist group. “We’ve seen the efforts by radical creationists, anti-evolution activists, anti-union, white separatist and other fringe groups to subversively infiltrate public education,” he wrote, and “this mailing from the Heartland Institute is on a similar level.”

Heartland is independent and held in the “highest regard” by professionals, Carter replied, and The Skeptic’s Handbook is academically accurate.

“As the president of a school district board, you have a particular responsibility to encourage informed discussion on controversial matters of the day,” Carter wrote, “rather than to denigrate in ignorant fashion one aspect of a complex, multi-sided argument of which you happen to disapprove.”

Heartland President Joseph L. Bast urged Kundu to identify errors in the book and to review the science. Kundu responded that scientific data are “irrelevant.” “[A]s long as I am a board president here in Marysville, my 11,000+ students will be exposed to your group (at best) as an example of organizations that manipulate science for the benefit of unethical industries pursuing capital gains,” Kundu responded.

Parents and taxpayers in the Marysville school district should be very concerned about Kundu’s anti-intellectual mindset and open rejection of the state’s K-12 Science Standards.

Those standards require sixth through eighth graders to be taught, “Science advances through openness to new ideas, honesty, and legitimate skepticism. Asking thoughtful questions, querying other scientists’ explanations, and evaluating one’s own thinking in response to the ideas of others are abilities of scientific inquiry.” High schoolers are to learn, “Science is a human endeavor that involves logical reasoning and creativity and entails the testing, revision and occasional discarding of theories as new evidence comes to light.”

Marysville students are performing well below statewide levels on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning science exams administered to fifth, eighth, and tenth graders, at 29 percent, 31.9 percent, and 27.2 percent, respectively. Statewide achievement levels are 13 to 17 percentage points higher.

Under Washington statutes and codes, school districts failing to plan for improvement in teaching to these standards risk loss of state education funds. By blocking instruction on global warming science, Kundu is placing the district’s state funding at risk.

Worse yet, he is placing students’ minds at risk, by allowing only indoctrination with outdated and increasingly unsound science.

Maureen Martin, an attorney, is senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute.

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