PPS Board votes to set new, district-wide standards about teachi - KPTV - FOX 12

PPS Board votes to set new, district-wide standards about teaching climate change

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The Portland Public Schools Board voted unanimously Tuesday to set new, district-wide standards on how to teach climate change.

The resolution states the district will “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of climate crisis or its roots in human activities.”

Lincoln High Social Studies teacher Tim Swinehart spent eight months helping craft the new policy that would eliminate textbooks such as the currently used Modern World History.

"The second paragraph starts with the sentence that 'Not all scientists agree with the theory of the greenhouse effect,' which is just factually wrong,” Swinehart said, pointing out several other statements in the book that he and others discredit.

“We have a responsibility to prepare our students for the reality that they’re growing up into,” Swinehart said.

According to Swinehart, the district’s new policies could be a first for public school in the nation - and with that, he admits the territory doesn’t come without controversy.

"Whether it should be or not, this is still an issue that is highly politicized in our country,” he said, adding that he admires the board’s decision to take a stand. 

“I think it does take a certain amount of courage to say that, ‘Our responsibility to the generations growing up and the unborn generations, is greater than any sort of risk - any sort of backlash - that will come from people who, for one reason or other, don’t see this as the right thing to do,” Swinehart said.

Fox 12 spoke with two parents who opposed the district’s new climate change teaching policy, but they declined to speak on camera. 

Grant High student Thomas Beckett said he was excited to hear Portland Public Schools was taking a firm stance on the issue.

“Some teachers are saying it’s a debatable subject, and some teachers say it’s a real fact - and so now I’m glad it’s going really a fact for all teachers,” Beckett said. “I don’t like reading this might potentially be a problem, because I know it’s a problem, and I’d like to see teachers -- our school system taking responsibility for something that’s a problem.”

There’s no timeline when new textbooks or learning material could be in students’ hands. Swinehart said figuring out how to implement the policy will be the next step. He said he hopes in will be an inclusive process collaborated on by the community. 

“How do we take this huge, overwhelming issue and turn it into something that can empower kids?,” Swinehart asked. "This could really change the way students understand climate change.”

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