Dear Editor: Regarding Paul Fanlund’s column “In teaching climate change, politics trumps science,” once upon a time political conservatives were simply cautious people who feared change — especially change that threatened their economic security or social position, as witness their early opposition to such mainstays of American society as Social Security. But somehow over the past few decades, conservatism has become resistant, not to change, but to reality itself. While this is evident in their responses to issues like marriage equality and immigration policy, nowhere does it do so much harm as in the politicized discussion of the climate crisis.
Thanks to the right’s relentless demonization of scientists and environmentalists, even the most anodyne statements about the natural world are now considered too controversial for free discussion in schools, as demonstrated by Casey Meehan’s illuminating study of the problems Wisconsin teachers face in addressing climate change. The fact that educators cannot address scientific reality in their classrooms without risking parental backlash is a sad commentary on the scientific literacy in America — and a demonstration that conservatism has become a grotesque parody of its former self.