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School Choice Can Temper Climate Curriculum Dogma

John Stuart Mill once wrote, “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation.” Sticking to the latter, American public schools are not heeding his wise words. Next month, the consortium of groups that set national science curriculum standards will release new instruction on teaching climate change, according to The Wall Street Journal. It won’t be balanced. And parents won’t have much choice. While both parents and teachers alike have voiced their preference to have both sides of the climate change debate taught in schools, institutions like the National Research Council (NRC) -- that are tasked with constructing the new curriculum -- disagree. Martin Storksdieck, a director at the NRC, thinks that teaching both sides to this controversial topic would mislead students. Despite cries that man-made global warming is “settled science,” there is considerable room for doubt. Look no further than the over 31,000 scientists who oppose the purported IPCC “consensus” or the deliberate attempts of the most prominent climate alarmists -- shown in the leaked Climategate emails -- to cover up the fact that there has been no net global warming for over a decade. But climate alarmists at the NRC and its fellow curriculum-setting institutions don’t want balance. That might mislead students, of course. Climate change dogma is already a staple of school curriculum in Maryland, as I wrote in The Washington Times. In June 2011, the Maryland state school board passed a new graduation requirement in “environmental literacy.” Its name is not as innocuous as it sounds. Students must assume the title of a policymaker and propose plans for the distribution of energy resources in a community and for the “fair consumption of goods.” Sound familiar? That’s because economic planning made a pretty big thud in 1989. Although an attempt to make “environmental literacy” a national standard stalled in Congress with the failure to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, climate alarmists are now trying another, and less democratic, route. There is a bigger question surrounding the debate on climate curriculum, and that is how parents might prevent their children from receiving education with which they disapprove. The answer is simple: private education. In the market for most goods and services, consumers vote their preferences at the cash register. Education -- as a service -- is not intrinsically any different. Marshall Fritz, the late President of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, astutely noted, “You buy a pizza for your family. You decide what’s on it. You pay for education. You decide what’s in it.” Markets are not only the best means for obtaining goods, as J.S. Mill noted, markets are also the best way to discover new ideas and truths. How fitting it is then that climate alarmists who disparage markets through calls for higher taxes and greater centralized economic control also reject the idea of a free market of ideas.