Lehigh Valley

Textbook adoption spurs climate debate in Saucon Valley

HELLERTOWN, Pa. - The Saucon Valley School District adopted a new environmental science textbook Tuesday in spite of claims by one board member that it contains "alarmist" climate change "propaganda."

At the meeting, school board member Bryan Eichfeld cast the sole dissenting vote against the adoption of "Environmental Science," a high school textbook that he claims passes unproven climate change information as science.

"This science is falling apart," he said.  "The proof as it moves forward [is] totally wrong. It's falling apart on its own and we're continuing to teach it like it's science."

Once the book was approved, Eichfeld proposed that the board introduce material to balance the district's climate change education, but the motion failed to garner further support.

Eichfeld also asserted that the change in climate has been marginal since he began studying it in 1998, and that current literature on the matter is "dishonest."

"I recommend that the curriculum is looked at and some of the offsetting ideas are put forth…some semblance of balance," he said. "I don't see that in our curriculum. There's a lot of clear propaganda in this stuff."

School officials though took strong exception to the attempt to modify their well-established curriculum for what board member Sandra Miller called "pure ideology."

"I trust our science department to maintain our department and to do the right thing," said Miller. "It's not appropriate for us to be going down this road. The science curriculum has been reviewed by the curriculum committee. I believe we have to rely on our experts and our school to provide that curriculum."

Board member Ralph Puerta said the task of balancing the way climate change is taught should fall on the teachers and their departments, but that students also have countless resources at their disposal.

"We are teaching our students how to think. They'll have a class. They'll have a teacher. They'll have a book. But they'll also have a world of information," he said. "For the board to go into adjusting the curriculum or the methodology, I think that's probably over the line for us."

Paul Saunders, a self-proclaimed "local expert of the deceptions of climate change alarmist," was invited by Eichfeld to speak on the matter at Tuesday's board meeting.

In a presentation of his 11-page report on the topic, Saunders said that the textbook's assertion that carbon-dioxide emissions have driven global climate change over the centuries is mistaken.

He said the book confounds group consensus with scientific fact.

"The temperature is driving [carbon dioxide] emissions, not the other way around," he said. "The Environmental Science textbook does not adhere to the scientific method. It delivers one-sided advocacy."

The Bethlehem resident was allowed to present his findings in spite of not being a member of the school district, to the chagrin of some officials and local residents.

"I really don't think we should have people coming out of the woodwork telling us how to teach our kids," said Saucon Valley resident Cedric Dettmar. "I find it borderline offensive."

Superintendent Dr. Sandra Fellin also spoke of the polarizing nature of the topic.

 "When you hear global warming and/or climate change, it goes with very personal beliefs and it causes [people] to act one way or another," she said, going on to reaffirm the board's decision to approve the textbook.

"The books that have been recommended have been vetted by our science department," Fellin said. "If the debate is the issue, then keep it the issue…not the textbooks."

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