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My Turn: Is education a hoax?

By James M. Beard

Many of us have been there. We get married and have children. So, Sally and Frank go off to the local elementary school with Mom and Dad holding back the tears as the children head to their first day of school.  The children continue to go through school, and we are very proud of them. We encourage them to do their best.

Eventually they are in high school where Frank plays football and Sally plays soccer. They aren’t the stars, but they do well enough. But, academically they seem to do really well. So, we encourage them to study really hard so they can get into a good school. They apply for scholarships and hope to get into one of the A-list schools. And it happens. They each get into the school of their choice and manage to make the Dean’s list in most semesters. We are so proud.

Then comes graduation and we think they might get a job. They both have science degrees, one in chemistry and one in environmental science. Well, Frank gets a job working for a company that makes solar panels, but Sally decides to go to graduate school to work in environment science studying climate change. She spends four years studying climate and receives her degree. Then she and her brother come home and have to listen to people who tell them that climate change is a hoax. No amount of argument or persuasion seems to help. The climate deniers are steadfast. They say, “The climate issues are not real, and if we act on these phony issues, it will ruin our economy.”

My question is, “Why do we send our young people to school if, when they learn and study hard, we are going to say to them that all of that stuff you spent years learning is a lie?” There is something fundamentally wrong with our culture when the best and the brightest are ignored and ridiculed because some people, for whatever reason, don’t like their conclusions.

I would like to make some comments about science. Science is based on evidence. Researchers identify something they wish to study and then do experiments. The results of these experiments lead to more experiments until they propose a working idea of what is going on. If they do this enough times, it is a theory. If they think that there is something not quite right about a theory they test it some more. The more they test it the more confident scientists become of their conclusions.

This is how science works, and it is not political. Only the policies of how to address a problem uncovered by science is political. Science has researched and shown that human activity is and will for the foreseeable future continue to warm the planet. This is known with a high degree of certainty. Those conclusions are not open for political debate. Only what to do about it is a legitimate question in the political realm.

Finally, I would leave the climate skeptics with one question. They claim that climate change is a hoax.  Please explain why thousands of scientists from around the world would gang up together to create such a myth. What would be the motivation?

Please support education. Teach your children to work hard and be kind and courteous to others. Let them and their colleagues learn and when it is all over, please have the courage and humility to listen to what they have to say. The future of the planet may depend on it.

James M. Beard is professor emeritus of chemistry at Catawba College.

  My Turn submissions should be 500-700 words in length. Please email to letters@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and, if possible, a digital photo of the writer.

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