Heated Discussion; What Role Humans Play in Global Warming Sparks Debate on All Sides of Issue

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Byline: Shelley Widhalm, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Global warming skeptics - or "deniers," to use the loaded term favored by Al Gore - suspect students nationwide aren't being taught both sides of the contentious debate about the extent to which humans are to blame for a rise in global temperatures.

Meteorologist and hurricane forecaster William Gray, for example, says schools nationwide are "brainwashing" students by showing "An Inconvenient Truth," the popular documentary illustrating Mr. Gore's multimedia call to arms to stop global warming.

Educators from metro-area school districts, however, say the truth about the teaching of global warming in schools is more complicated - and less alarming. Students, they claim, are given both sides of the issue: Global warming is either a result of human impact from carbon dioxide and other emissions or it is a part of the natural cycles of the Earth.

"It's quite a bad situation," says Mr. Gray, a professor in the department of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and outspoken global warming skeptic. "All of these kids are being forced to see the Gore movie in their schools, and they're given nothing else, as if that is the truth, which I'm confident it's not."

Not so fast, say metro-area science coordinators. Global warming, they insist, is taught in science (such as biology, chemistry, ecology, and environmental, life and Earth sciences) classes to give students information and opinions from several vantage points, allowing them to reach their own conclusions.

Mr. Gore's film, they contend, is used, if at all, as a way to strike up debate.

Students at Stafford County Public Schools in Stafford, Va., are encouraged to reach their own conclusions when they review the literature about global warming in their science classes, says Rita Truelove, science coordinator for the school district.

Ms. Truelove asked secondary school science teachers if they show "An Inconvenient Truth." They gave her a range of responses from absolutely not allowing political views into the classroom to using it as fodder for debate.

"They were putting the issue out there. They weren't making a firm statement one way or another, so students could make their own decisions," Ms. Truelove says.

"If we allow kids to take ownership of their own thoughts and ideas, it stays with them," she says. …