The Heartland Institute, Truth in Textbooks, and Time magazine are interested in Florida

The interest in Florida’s new textbook law might have faded into the background lately but today it’s jumped back into the spotlight with a vengeance. The Heartland Institute, the purveyor of climate change denial nonsense, is definitely aware of what’s going on here in the Sunshine State as is an organization called Truth in Textbooks. And Time magazine published a story online today about the new law.

I’ll start briefly with the Heartland Institute. The originator of the textbook law, the Florida Citizens Alliance, is likely now cozy friends with Heartland. I stumbled across this web page at the Institute’s publications and resources section of their website. They added to their collection the Alliances’s bogus list chock full of complaints about textbooks used in Florida. For instance:

Unacceptable curricular examples included the glorification of teen sex and distorted accounts of America’s founding. One sixth grade history textbook explicitly stated children are descended from apes, and another declared anyone can qualify as an American citizen simply by wanting to be one.

So, we definitely want to be on the lookout for any future teamwork from Heartland and the Alliance. Keep in mind that Heartland has deep pockets.

The Alliance was also prominently featured in an article published at Time magazine’s website: Florida’s Textbooks Are a New Battleground in America’s Fight Over Facts. I spoke with the reporter quite a bit and so did someone from the National Center for Science Education and yet neither one of us are mentioned in the article at all, which is deeply disappointing, especially since the Alliance wound up being the centerpiece of the story. However, despite that omission I thought the story was good. It revealed yet a little bit more about the Alliance’s activities and players.

Mike Mogil doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans. The 72-year old former National Weather Service meteorologist says global temperatures have been fluctuating for millennia, and recent extremes could very well have nothing to do with mankind. Now, he wants to make sure Florida’s public school students get the same perspective.

To Mogil, who is a member of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, the conservative group that helped write the bill, “objective” means that any textbook including climate change information should leave open the possibility that humans are not at fault, even though that goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising and carbon emissions by humans are to blame. “You shouldn’t start off with a political agenda from either side,” he says. “We’re all taxpayers in one form or another, and I would like to have a say in how that money is being spent.”

We here at Florida Citizens for Science didn’t get a voice in the story, but others on our side did.

“This could be really misused by a lot of people to the detriment of the job of educating our kids,” says Richard Grosso, a Florida attorney and Nova Southeastern University law professor who believes the new law is unnecessary. He is concerned that already-underfunded districts will have to spend time and money hearing textbook challenges even if they’re “completely frivolous.”

Have you heard of Truth in Textbooks? The Alliance has …

In the meantime, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance urged its 20,000 supporters to become “textbook reviewers” by taking a three-month, mostly online training course run by Truth in Textbooks, a Texas-based conservative group that encourages its volunteers to oppose what it calls a “pro-Islam/anti-Christian” bias in history books. The Truth in Textbooks course doesn’t officially give participants a leg up in textbook objections, but the Florida Citizens’ Alliance hopes the training will add credibility to members’ challenges to school boards this fall.

Truth in Textbooks, which started in Texas and is expanding nationwide, now has their fingers firmly in Florida and we’ll undoubtedly be hearing from them and their trainees quite often in the near future.

And the Time story ends with this interesting tidbit:

Mogil, the former meteorologist, spent the summer teaching about weather and sharing his views on climate change with about 30 middle and high school students at a summer camp he runs in Naples, Fla. He hopes that by offering a different view than what the kids learn in school, and by challenging textbooks under Florida’s new law, he will teach students to be skeptical, like him, of widely accepted knowledge.

Are any of you reading this in the Naples area? Can I talk you into finding out more about this summer camp?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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