“Our schools are failing to educate students to be prepared for undergraduate science education –
while also teaching them that political conformity is the essence of science.”
According to the National Association of Scholars, America today is in danger of replicating the Lysenko cult that dominated Soviet Russia and Communist China nearly a century ago.
Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko beginning in the 1930s led a campaign against Mendelian genetics and science-based agriculture that rejected natural selection in favor of his own self-styled techniques he wrongly claimed would radically increase crop yields.
K.L. Lerner states that “the disastrous effects of Lysenkoism … darkly illustrate the disastrous intrusion of politics and ideology into the affairs of science.” Lysenkoism worsened the famine and deprivations facing Soviet citizens. It als brought repression and persecution of scientists who dared oppose his pseudoscientific doctrines. Chairman Mao’s adoption of Lysenkoism culminated in the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-62.
Lysenko’s propaganda-driven “revolution in agriculture” empowered him to denounce biologists as “fly-lovers and people haters,” and claim that “biological regularities do not resemble mathematical laws.” His assertions were strongly supported by Joseph Stalin, who summarily dismissed, imprisoned, or executed more than 3,000 mainstream biologists and geneticists.
By 1948, the Soviet Union officially declared genetics “a bourgeois pseudoscience” and the V.I. Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences announced that Lysenkoism was “the only correct theory.” China’s adoption of Lysenkoism led to the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-62.
The politicization of science in America – a new form of Lysenkoism — has taken hold across America’s academy. Washington State’s newly adopted climate science curriculum for high school students asserts that, “For too long, science and science education have prioritized … rational thinking.” High schoolers must focus on emotions, poetry, activism, and a “public participatory artwork” – not on learning how the world really works.
To achieve this goal, the state enlisted the aid of The Bureau of Linguistical Reality, founded in 2014 “for the purpose of collecting, translating, and creating a new vocabulary for the Anthropocene. The Bureau was established “as an interactive conceptual artwork to help to fill the linguistical void in our rapidly changing world.”
Washington State’s climate science education is thus guided by artist Alicia Escott, whose seminal work is “Letters Sent Sometime after the Continents Separated,” and Heidi Quante, who parlayed a degree in cultural anthropology into a partnership with Escott “because she was at a loss for words to describe the very real emotions and feelings she found herself experiencing as our world rapidly changes.”
The curriculum thus asks students, “Should we have children?” in a world soon to be overcome by climate catastrophe. It states that the life of our species requires that high school boys must “gracefully and gratefully stand aside” and let “Grand Mothers everywhere on the planet to rise and take [their] place in the leadership of the world.” In short, boys [especially rational thinkers] must not become scientists.
All across America rational inquiry is being subsumed in favor of propaganda-driven emotional “solutions” of the type that led to the Challenger disaster. As recounted in Michael Bennett’s 1991 book, The Asbestos Racket: An Environmental Parable, NASA stopped using asbestos-based sealants that could withstand extremely high temperatures in favor of “lucky putty” over an overhyped angst against theoretical asbestos poisoning.
Rational thinkers had questioned the wisdom of replacing asbestos-based sealants in rockets, despite their far-superior performance as a fire retardant. But the Challenger crew died thanks to an epidemic of “fear, spread by scientific ignorance, bureaucratic bungling, political posturing, greedy lawyers, sensation-mongering reporters and contractors chasing the almighty buck.” Sound familiar?
The National Association of Scholars’ 2018 report, “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science,” asserted that “an older ideal of disinterested pursuit of truth was giving way to views [in which] all academic inquiry … served someone’s political interests, and ‘truth’ itself had to be counted as a questionable concept.” The emerging view in America’s colleges and universities includes a comprehensive hostility to the core traditions of the academy – including scientific principles.
Today, the NAS said, “the crisis of science has proceeded as far as it has because the public rewards dubious science out of ignorance but also because people like the idea that science confirms popular prejudices.” The report called for a revived focus on the proper use and pitfalls of statistically based research – how statistics can be manipulated to create an illusion of truth that does not exist in the real world.
Another NAS report, “Climbing Down: How the Next Generation Science Standards Diminish Scientific Literacy,” expressed alarm at the prevalence of “forces at work within the institutions of science that check of compromise legitimate inquiry.” Too often today, superstition, dogma, and ignorance dress themselves up as science and attempt to usurp the authority of science to advance their own ends.”
“Climbing Down” documents that some scientific professional organizations today conform themselves to an ever-lengthening series of political agendas, and scientific journals even retroactively “cancel” (remove from the public record) scholarship that contravenes today’s political dogma. Science departments and granting agencies now demand “diversity statements” from science professors.
Just as in Stalin’s day, it is “party line first, scientific inquiry a distant second.”
As a result, the NAS concludes, “Our schools are failing to educate students to be prepared for undergraduate science education – while also teaching them that political conformity is the essence of science.” Moreover, “The politicization of K-12 students reinforces the politicization of undergraduate education and makes it even harder for college professors to provide an education that aims at truth rather than propaganda.”
The NAS concludes that the Next Generation Science Standards – the latest iteration in top-down, untested, and disastrous education reform touted by progressive activists, bureaucrats, and philanthropists – are an uncontrolled experiment in how to ruin science education in the name of reform.
The “standards” severely neglect content instruction, politicize much of the content that remains, largely in the service of a groupthink-driven diversity and equity political agenda, and abandon instruction of the scientific method. This philosophy has wormed its way into official science policy, as the NAS is now documenting via its “Shifting Sands” project.
Combating this abomination of desolation is not an easy task. Overwhelmingly, notes George Leef, the people who work in state education bureaucracies have been steeped in leftist ideology. They are far less concerned about how well students learn to read, write, and do math than with turning them into zealous advocates for collectivism, egalitarianism, and acceptance of authority.
Leef argues that elected officials who want to stop the further decay of their education systems must push for alternatives to education school certification – because those schools have been so thoroughly compromised by this ideological approach to “education.” He warns that “there cannot be any peaceful coexistence with them, for their intention is to radically transform the nation by indoctrinating its young people.”
But political leaders will not tackle the education bureaucracy without the support of an increasingly informed and alarmed public. As, as we have seen, the very act of questioning the authority of the education bureaucracy can bring the FBI to your doorstep.
And despite forcing us to listen to commercials laden with rapid-fire disclaimers, the government (and especially the education bureaucracy) does not really want us to ask about the side effects of bad medicine or bad policy.
- Duggan FlanakinDuggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas.
- A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, “Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout.”