2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 332-5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM


DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, The Paleontological Research Institution, 92 South Drive, Amherst, NY 14226, dad55@cornell.edu

Drawing from experience in programming across a range of controversial issues including climate change, energy education with a focus on hydrofracking, and science education reform (and school reform more broadly) patterns emerge in the nature of responses across these issues. This has led to the development of rules of thumb for education and public programming related to addressing controversial issues. It also identifies a surprising conclusion; that obstacles to enacting science education reform and to addressing climate change share common structures. Unearthing these shared obstacles yields hope for broader understanding in both domains.

Despite conspicuous evidence and remarkably strong consensus amongst climate scientists, the idea that climate change is real, human caused, and a serious threat to global-scale economies, ecosystems, and societies, remains politically controversial. Likewise, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent in educational research, educational practice and the outcomes of the formal education system are both disappointing and little changed in recent decades. Common educational practice at the secondary and tertiary levels is largely unrelated to research about how people learn, and this has long been the case. It is also in plain view.

Resistance to enacting school reform, to acting on climate change, and to changes in the energy system share:

    common cognitive biases, especially the status quo bias,

    solution aversion,

    reactions characterized by identity-protective cognition, and,

    connection to the sunk-cost fallacy.

This is evident in protestations that fail to address key issues such as carbon dioxide emissions demonstrably change atmospheric dynamics, and that the fundamental structure of the school day and school year is without grounding in educational research. Protestations are also commonly characterized by logical fallacies and are often in the form of narratives of good and evil.

It is hoped that highlighting these similarities in the nature of responses to fundamentally different issues will bring both empathy to those with whom we disagree and make understandings of these issues both broader (across the population) and deeper (within individuals).

  • GSA2015-SameObstacles.pptx (2.1 MB)