Teach the Collegians Well

A follow-up on my March 10, 2017 GelbspanFiles post, where I explored how college students get swept up — seemingly without question — into regurgitating global warming political tangents; specifically, the notion of ‘Big Coal & Oil’ paying skeptic climate scientists to lie. I suggest that college students don’t simply cough up this stuff out of the blue, they’re taught do so by their professors. But first, I have something of an error to admit to ….. which, unfortunately, does nothing to help either the student or professor I wrote about.

Recall that in my March 10, 2017 post, I said the professor should hand the paper back to the student for a re-write since she fundamentally got her page citations numbers wrong about items found specifically within Ross Gelbspan’s 1997 “The Heat is On Book.” My error was in my interpretation of the student’s opening paragraph for her paper’s “Corrupt Science” section – namely, I thought her reference to Bill McKibben’s “The Global Warming Reader” book and its excerpt of Gelbspan’s 1997 book was simply that; a reference to additional reading. Familiar that I am with Gelbspan’s 1997/1998 hardcover/paperback, I was immediately perplexed by the student’s subsequent page number citations to Gelbspan because I knew they appeared much earlier in that book, and because her “Works Cited” section only showed Gelbspan’s 2004 book. What I failed to consider was that her page number citations were not to “The Heat is On” but instead to the page numbers in McKibben’s “The Global Warming Reader” for his excerpts of “The Heat is On”. The student essentially failed to properly cite a reference in an anthology, ironic considering she was composing the paper for an Honors English Composition class. If I was the professor, I’d still hand the paper back for a re-write. At the very least, the student should have worded her citations in the “Corrupt Science” in this format, “Gelbspan, qtd. in McKibben —.

But why would the student get mired down in an unnecessary two-step citation process when she could have directly cited Gelbspan’s 1997 book? Therein lies the root of my error about the page citations: I didn’t read the course syllabus until I started composing this blog post. Bill McKibben’s “The Global Warming Reader” was one of the three books assigned as reading for this Honors English Composition class. McKibben’s book excerpt of Gelbspan’s “The Heat is On” came up as specific reading task** in week 3 of the class. Two weeks later, students had an assignment to provide a proposal for their ultimate class-ending research paper assignment …. and one of the suggested topics to explore was “fossil fuels industry misinformation campaigns.”

So, this student was practically spoon-fed material for the research paper she wrote. But how did her professor learn of this material? That’s something a reporter might have to extract from him. But considering how one of the other book authors the professor favored for this class is Elizabeth Kolbert, it might not be implausible that the professor read about her, McKibben and Gelbspan here (click to enlarge):

Nobody would argue that a professor’s outside reading activity involves being spoon-fed propaganda. But such material might not be the only place where college professors see this kind of thing. The worldwide college education community makes use of an email list management software called ListServ. Click on the links and look carefully through these screencaptures:

See the pattern? This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The point is, would it be fair to say collegians are less likely to question a person they hear about, if the person arrives on their radar with that kind of impressive label?

Gelbspan never won a Pulitzer, that label was debunked in 1997, not once, not twice, but at least three times, and again in 2004 when Al Gore’s New York Times book review mention of it concerning Gelbspan’s book (with that label on the cover) was retracted. Even an ordinary blogger was able to take the claim apart nearly a decade before I dissected it. And it is continually debunked to this day, anytime anyone drops Gelbspan’s name into a Pulitzer recipient search at the Pulitzer organization’s own website.

Think carefully on this: Al Gore’s version of settled global warming science was facing a mortal enemy of skeptic climate scientists who offered very plausible contrary assessments on the climate. What would be the most effective way steer the public away from looking in depth into that material? Point the entire world to an individual with ‘impeccable credentials’ who exposed skeptic climate scientists as ‘industry-corrupted crooks,’ and then later say that this accusation is ‘well-documented’.

What level of disappointment would arise if an entire generation of environmentally concerned college people were to discover that a principle global warming crusader they were told about and/or relied upon was not what he was portrayed to be, and had apparently literally misrepresented the ‘core evidence’ which enabled him to have a second career?
** There’s always more. For the “Heat is On” book excerpt in “The Global Warming Reader”, McKibben’s citation is clearly to the 1998 paperback version. But McKibben’s excerpted text is clearly from Gelbspan’s 1997 hardcover, since it features the name “Fred Singer” instead of “Sherwood Idso,” names which Gelbspan apparently felt a need to swap without ever telling anyone why he did that. It isn’t just gullible college students who make book citation errors.