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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

ShouldnŐt education include differing views?


By Seth Hancock
  Does School District U-46 board member Traci Ellis support stifling dissenting views?
  A May 22 Facebook post on Ellis’ public page appears to show so as she wrote “One school district’s approach” in posting a story by the Portland Tribune reporting on Portland Public Schools’ board voting to ban any resources that place any amount of doubt on man-made climate change.
  According to the story, the Portland board’s resolution wants the district to throw out all materials and textbooks that lay doubts, and those doubts aren’t necessarily denying. It goes to just using simple words like could, may and might.
  In response to Ellis’ post, one person commented a question: “How would this approach be conducive to diversity of thought?”
  The reply from Ellis was the Portland “school district has decided that the science is clear and it is removing any doubt in its curriculum.”
  Although Ellis does not flat-out state she supports this move, the posting of the story as well as recent discussions by the board would make it appear she would support such a ban in U-46. As such, The Examiner directed a question to her asking if she would support this in U-46, and if she would support limiting the ideas of others she disagrees with on science and what is her scientific background that would allow her to make such a decision? Ellis did not respond.
  This post comes on the heels of some controversy in the district as board member Jeanette Ward has made several no votes over the course of her first year on the board regarding resources that she feels are more indoctrination than education. In contrast to wanting to ban ideas, Ward has said resources should present all sides of issues.
  At a recent board meeting, both supporters and opponents of Ward spoke during public comments regarding a student-led petition asking Ward to resign because of her beliefs. Ellis criticized supporters of Ward for raising free speech and the Constitution in their support. At least three of whom who did during public comments were veterans who have sworn an oath to the Constitution.
  Ward has raised a number of examples of one-sided lessons in the resources she has opposed, and neither the administration or those board members voting for the resources have refuted her arguments.
  While Ellis appears to be supporting a government body banning ideas, that support would contradict her May 17 Facebook post that chastised Ward’s supporters as she wrote that the First Amendment “ONLY prevents the GOVERNMENT from censoring your speech.”
  Several opponents of Ward raised the issue of global warming as why she should resign, and several claimed the science is settled as they raised the idea that 97 percent of scientists agree on the science. That 97 percent comes from Australian science blogger John Cook who analyzed thousands of science articles and research papers, and if there was any data that he and his staff felt supported the man-made climate change theory they claimed it as support for the theory.
  A Friends of Science study that reviewed the same articles and papers shows that 97 percent claim to be false and that only 0.54 percent “explicitly state” support for man-made climate change. The Global Warming Petition Project has over 31,000 American scientists who have signed a petition saying the science isn’t settled.
  John Casey, a former NASA scientist, called man-made climate change “the greatest scientific fraud in history” driven by scientists who wanted taxpayers to fund their research. The U.S. spends about $22 billion a year on such research, and the Small Business Administration estimated the cost to the American economy to comply with regulations directly stemming from this theory as $1.75 trillion a year.
  Even if there is a consensus, that does not make it truth as history shows. At one point the consensus was the earth was the center of the universe, known as the geocentric model, until the 16th century when Nicolaus Copernicus presented heliocentrism showing the earth and planets revolve around the sun. Albert Einstein’s principle of relativity posits there is no specific center of the universe.
  With Ellis appearing to support a ban of ideas on climate change, even despite no consensus appearing to exist, The Examiner asked the entire board if they would support such a ban. Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith did not respond.
  In responding, Ward said she “certainly would not support a ban… which proposes deliberately not presenting the fact that scientists do not agree about climate change.” She added: “I want both sides presented. It seems to me only one side wants to stifle debate.”
  Board members Phil Costello and Cody Holt also said they would not support a ban.
  “Having multiple, informed viewpoints furthers public discourse and is the pinnacle of our Constitution’s free speech,” Costello said.
  Holt said: “Absolutely not. Any such action will undermine healthy educational debate and stifle diversity of thought. Our students must be allowed the freedom to develop their own beliefs. This can only come by exposing them to a broad base of ideas.”
  The board was also asked if the process in selecting resources needs to put more emphasis on making sure they promote critical thinking rather than present one-sided lessons.
  “It is very important that, as elected officials, we make sure that during the curriculum selection and adoption process there is no overarching bias or political agenda,” Holt said. “This way, students can fairly develop their own beliefs and freely debate opposing opinions.”
  “I believe that the curriculum and resource selection process should make sure that both sides of controversial issues are presented,” Ward said. “It was recently posted that public education should be apolitical. Sadly, it isn’t. And when one points out that it isn’t, that one is accused of being political. Ironic isn’t it?”
  Costello said: “I believe we should go beyond merely welcoming curriculum that promotes critical thinking and persuasive debate but rather make that premise a prerequisite. Given the breath of content matter under consideration, curriculum selection in itself can be subjective regardless of the invested hours. The district and its educators should explicitly avoid any role in influencing philosophical advocacy and be critical of such manipulation as learning opportunities. There should also be accountability for deviations with appropriate ramifications just as in any other job performance areas.”

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