LANSING - Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) objections to the book "A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids," a science curriculum companion book for some Michigan seventh-graders, has persuaded the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center (BCAMSC) to pull the teaching option in 38 Michigan school districts.
MFB first voiced concerns about the self-published book's content in July, drawing attention to what the organization believed to be biased opinions and grossly inaccurate, non-scientific information about modern agricultural practices.
"We've said from the beginning that the science curriculum which included the book was sound," said Deb Schmucker, manager of the MFB Promotion and Education Department. "We never attempted to challenge or debate the theoretical soundness or lack of soundness of human-caused global warming. But we have consistently criticized political statements in the book that were disguised as science."
"When a book quotes -- and teaches children as fact -- opinions from anti-farming, extremist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Worldwatch Institute, the credibility of the information must be questioned. I look at that as the duty of every parent."
BCAMSC concedes, and the center has notified schools on how they can return the book, said Connie Duncan, director of the BCAMSC which develops curriculum guides for school districts in the southern half of lower Michigan.
"We've now done a complete review of the book, and decided it was best for us to remove it," she said.
Duncan said the book "slipped through the cracks" because only parts of it were referenced to integrate literacy into the science curriculum.
"The curriculum does not reference (the objectionable parts) of the book" she said. "But the point is, the book was not read completely."
Duncan said BCAMSC will change how it reviews companion materials in the future. The review panel that recommends materials for the curriculum includes about 20 teachers and university professors, she said.
"A Hot Planet needs cool kids" is BCAMSC's first recall in 20 years of approving materials. "That's a pretty good record," she said. But Duncan also noted a problem when recalling the "Hot Planet" book.
"It's hard to find a good book to go with this curriculum," she said. "We won't replace the book with something else because we can't find too many that have a whole lot of different information."
Initially, Farm Bureau was invited to submit information about farming's continuing role in helping temper potential climate change through land and animal stewardship, careful and efficient use of crop protection materials, and other practices that were conspicuously absent in the "Hot Planet" book. But BCAMSC is now wary of accepting information that could be perceived as special interest.
Schmucker said unlike the "Hot Planet" book, the information she intends to submit will contain peer-reviewed, scientific analysis from credible sources, and all the information will be documented carefully.
"Farmers throughout this nation's history have been on the cutting edge of science and innovation. They are problem solvers, and they've already cut their overall carbon footprint, changed practices that in the past led to soil erosion, and provided the safest, most secure and comfortable life for animals that's possible with the resources and information available," said Schmucker. "Farmers are part of the solution, and they deserve better than what this book provided."
While Farm Bureau is a member organization that supports farmers, Schmucker said "no opinions will be dressed up like fact" in the material she presents.
"After that, it's up to the schools and the teachers to accept or reject it. That's where parents step in. They are the last defense against misinformation and blatant political agendas," said Schmucker. "We expect them to take the hard stance against any material that doesn't present unbiased, scientifically sound science, no matter what the source."
Duncan agreed that parents need to be more involved in their children's education, and encourages parents to examine next year's proposed math and science curriculum when it goes up for public review in February.
She said she'll even consider speaking with Farm Bureau at its annual meeting next month.