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EDITORIAL: Climate of ignorance in West York

The Dispatch Editorial Board
Harry Overlander, left, working the poll for his daughter, West York School Board candidate for Brandy Shope, and Brenda Brown, right, working the poll in support of West Manchester Township supervisor candidate William Niehenke, look on as Lynn Kohler, center, a candidate for West York School Board, greets voters during Election Day at Shiloh Fire Co. in West Manchester Township, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Facts don't have biases, people do.

And West York school board members seem more concerned with inserting their own prejudices into the classroom than arming the district's students with information required to think critically.

And that's the crux.

It all started this past week, when members of the school board appointed themselves censors-in-chief by pulling from the classroom a widely used textbook, "Rubenstein: The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 13th edition." It's the go-to text for advanced placement geography courses throughout the country.

But, alas, five board members were triggered when they learned it includes climate change as a significant factor that is, and will, drive human behavior and movement.

Even worse, dissenting board members said, is that "Rubenstein" had the gall to say that rich industrial countries — the ones pumping carbon emissions into the air in the pursuit of electricity and iPhones — were hastening the melting ice caps.

It's left-wing "indoctrination," cried board member Lynn Kohler. It's anti-capitalist, he protested.

Well, how about this, Mr. Kohler?

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense, not exactly the capital of the liberal intelligentsia, published a report detailing how climate change is expected to destabilize entire regions by 2100.

Up to 60 million people worldwide could be displaced as sea levels rise, the report says. Super storms are likely to destroy crops. Entire government systems, including that of the U.S., could be undermined.

The Pentagon's interests here, of course, were matters of military readiness and global stability. And, according to its greatest minds, climate change is among the most significant real-world threats to those aims.

But Mr. Kohler and his cronies are apparently on board with denying West York's top high school students the opportunity to learn those facts. They're obviously hopeful that West York's students will remain illiterate to the sweeping consensus among climate scientists that the planet's oceans are warming faster than previously recorded and humanity's emissions are the cause. 

In short, Mr. Kohler understands neither science nor education. And that ignorance raises questions about his fitness to oversee an educational body in the first place.

Science, you see, is about questioning, testing and retesting. Papers are written. They're peer reviewed and only some survive the vetting to see print. After publication, other researchers set out to disprove the published findings.

There's no scientific cabal. On the contrary, striking down a well-regarded paper is good for a researcher's career. 

Researchers apply a critical, Socratic test. Only those experiments that can be reproduced and without methodological flaws are considered legitimate.

It's not unlike the thought experiments practiced every day by trial attorneys in American courts. It's the best method humanity has so far devised to arrive at some level of truth. 

But critical questioning — the very essence of the "liberty" and "freedom," which Mr. Kohler claimed to celebrate — is somehow a threat to people of his persuasion.

So, too, is a well-rounded, critical student body, one capable of distinguishing viable sources from the writings of crackpots.

And that last point is, perhaps, the greatest indictment against those who shot down "Rubenstein." The ability to think critically is the ultimate aim of public education. 

The problem for the likes of West York's anti-science bloc is that their's is a doctrine that cannot withstand critical analysis. So, unsurprisingly, the very practice of informed questioning is their enemy.