Re: [asa] FYI: Gore´s 9 errors

From: Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net>
Date: Sun Oct 14 2007 - 20:39:09 EDT

Just catching up on some of the email after being
out of town more than in for most of the past
week - working backward from the most recent on ASA:

At 05:17 PM 10/13/2007, PvM wrote:

>"See [ snipped link] There is also a link to the
>ruling by the judge which places the whole issue
>in a much better light as it shows what the
>judge really said versus the spin." ~ Pim
>
> > The judge seems poorly informed . This is
> the problem of bringing science into lawcourts
> ..." ~ Michael Roberts 10/13/2007

@ Talk about SPIN! The case and the "ruling"
had to do with Algore and his friends' attempt to
"politically indoctrinate" little children. But
then, you all already knew that, so stop blowing
smoke. ~ Janice ... (snipping the "errors")
and excerpting the bottom line which PROVES it:

England and Wales High Court (Administrative
Court) Decisions http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html
Case No: CO/3615/2007 Hearing dates: 27, 28
September, 1, 2 October 2007 Before: MR JUSTICE BURTON

Stuart Dimmock - Claimant -- Mr Paul Downes and
Miss Emily Saunderson (instructed by Malletts) for the Claimant

-vs-

Sec. State for Education and Skills Defendant --
Mr Martin Chamberlain (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the Defendant

[Judge] Burton:

Stuart Dimmock is a father of two sons at state
school and a school governor. He has brought an
application to declare unlawful a decision by the
then Secretary of State for Education and Skills
to distribute to every state secondary school in
the United Kingdom a copy of former US
Vice-President Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient
Truth ("AIT"), ..... I have had very considerable
assistance from both the very able Counsel, Paul
Downes for the Claimant and Martin Chamberlain
for the Defendant, and their respective teams.

The context and nub of the dispute are the
statutory provisions described in their side
headings as respectively relating to "political
indoctrination" and to the "duty to secure
balanced treatment of political issues" in
schools, now contained in ss406 and 407 of the
Education Act 1996, which derive from the
identical provisions in ss44 and 45 of the
Education (No 2) Act 1986. The provisions read as follows:

406. The local education authority, governing
body and head teachers shall forbid … the
promotion of partisan political views in the
teaching of any subject in the school.
407. The local education authority, governing
body and head teacher shall take such steps as
are reasonably practicable to secure that where
political issues are brought to the attention of
pupils while they are (a) in attendance at a
maintained school, or (b) taking part in
extra-curricular activities which are provided or
organised for registered pupils at the school by
or on behalf of the school they are offered a
balanced presentation of opposing views."

I viewed the film at the parties' request..... It
is now common ground that it is not simply a
science film – ... – but that it is a political
film.. . Its theme is not merely the fact that
there is global warming,...but that urgent, and
if necessary expensive and inconvenient, steps
must be taken to counter it, many of which are spelt out.

Paul Downes... has established his case that the
views in the film are political by submitting
that Mr Gore promotes an apocalyptic vision,
which would be used to influence a vast array of
political policies, which he illustrates ...:

"(i) Fiscal policy and the way that a whole
variety of activities are taxed, including fuel
consumption, travel and manufacturing …

(ii) Investment policy and the way that
governments encourage directly and indirectly various forms of activity.

(iii) Energy policy and the fuels (in particular
nuclear) employed for the future.

(iv) Foreign policy and the relationship held
with nations that consume and/or produce carbon-based fuels."

...the Defendant, does not challenge that the
film promotes political views. ................."

In the DEFRA [the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs] leaflet ... there was this one sentence summary:

"Mr Johnson said that influencing the opinions of
children was crucial to developing a long term
view on the environment among the public."

After the pre-action correspondence from the
Claimant, and on the very day the Judicial Review
Claim Form was issued, a somewhat differently
worded news release was issued by the Defendant dated 2 May 2007:

"....This pack will help to give young people
information and inspiration to understand and
debate the issues around climate change..."

The explanation for the distribution to all
schools is now given in these proceedings in the
witness statement of Ms Julie Bramman of the DES:

"8. …I should say at once that it was recognised
from the start that parts of the Film contained
views about public policy and how we should
respond to climate change. The aim of
distributing the film was not to promote those
views, but rather to present the science of
climate change in an engaging way and to promote
and encourage debate on the political issues raised by that science."

...the meaning of partisan, as in partisan political views: ...

Partisan

... Mr Downes pointed to dictionary definitions
suggesting the relevance of commitment, or
adherence to a cause. In my judgment, the best
simile for it might be "one sided". Mr Downes,
in paragraph 27 of his skeleton argument,
helpfully suggested that there were factors that
could be considered by a court in determining
whether the expression or promotion of a
particular view could evidence or indicate partisan promotion of those views:

"(i) A superficial treatment of the subject
matter typified by portraying factual or
philosophical premises as being self-evident or
trite with insufficient explanation or
justification and without any indication that
they may be the subject of legitimate
controversy; the misleading use of scientific
data; misrepresentations and half-truths; and one-sidedness.

(ii) The deployment of material in such a way as
to prevent pupils meaningfully testing the
veracity of the material and forming an
independent understanding as to how reliable it is.

(iii) The exaltation of protagonists and their
motives coupled with the demonisation of opponents and their motives.

(iv) The derivation of a moral expedient from
assumed consequences requiring the viewer to
adopt a particular view and course of action in
order to do "right" as opposed to "wrong."

This is clearly a useful analysis.

Local educational authority to forbid the
promotion of partisan views in the teaching of any subject in the school

"....What is forbidden by the statute is, as the
side heading makes clear, "political
indoctrination". If a teacher uses the platform
of a classroom to promote partisan political
views in the teaching of any subject, then that
would offend against the statute.

If on the other hand a teacher, in the course of
a school day and as part of the syllabus,
presents to his pupils, no doubt with the
appropriate setting and with proper tuition and
debate, a film or document which itself promotes
in a partisan way some political view, that
cannot possibly in my judgment be the mischief
against which the statute was intended to protect pupils.

It would not only lead to bland education, but to
education which did not give the opportunity to
pupils to learn about views with which they
might, vehemently or otherwise, either agree or
disagree. I conclude that the mere distribution
by the Defendant to schools to facilitate their
showing the film, and accompanied by guidance, to
which I shall refer, is not per se, or
irremediably, a promotion of those partisan political views.

Balanced Presentation

.....the issue of whether there is facilitated by
the DES what is forbidden, namely the promotion
by the school of partisan political views,
depends in substantial part on the context, and
in this case on its Guidance Note. Such Guidance
Note is also obviously relevant in relation to
s407. On occasions during the hearing, Mr
Chamberlain indicated that there were matters
that could be left to the good sense and the
knowledge of teachers, whether of science,
geography or of citizenship. Trust in such
teachers is of course, one hopes, always a given. .....

.....There is nothing to prevent (to take an
extreme case) there being a strong preference for
a theory – if it were a political one – that the
moon is not made out of green cheese, and hence a
minimal, but dispassionate, reference to the
alternative theory. The balanced approach does
not involve equality. In my judgment, the word
"balanced" in s407 means nothing more than fair and dispassionate.

The Film

I turn to AIT, the film. The following is clear:

i) It is substantially founded upon scientific
research and fact, albeit that the science is
used, in the hands of a talented politician and
communicator, to make a political statement and
to support a political programme. ..."

The Errors [snipped]

The Guidance

"... in order to establish and confirm that the
purpose of sending the films to schools is not so
as to "influence the opinions of children"
(paragraph 7 above) but so as to "stimulate
children into discussing climate change and
global warming in school classes" (paragraph 6
above) a Guidance Note must be incorporated into
the pack, and that it is not sufficient simply to
have the facility to cross-refer to it on an
educational website..... it is noteworthy that in
the (unamended) Guidance Note there is no or no
adequate discussion at all, either by way of
description or by way of raising relevant
questions for discussion, in relation to any of
the above 9 'errors', the first two of which are
at any rate apparently based on non-existent or
misunderstood evidence, and the balance of which
are or may be based upon lack of knowledge or
appreciation of the scientific position, and all
of which are significant planks in Mr Gores's 'political' argumentation. ..."

"...One particular change in the section on
"Citizenship: Planning a whole day event on
climate change" is of some significance:

"..... Invite in a guest speaker to go over the
issues raised across the day and discuss
solutions … But please remember that teaching
staff must not promote any particular political
response to climate change and, when such
potential responses are brought to the attention
of pupils, must try to ensure that pupils are
offered a balanced presentation of opposing views."

The amended Guidance Note contains in its
introduction a new and significant passage:

"[Schools] must bear in mind the following points

* AIT promotes partisan political views (that is
to say, one sided views about political issues)

* teaching staff must be careful to ensure that
they do not themselves promote those views;

* in order to make sure of that, they should
take care to help pupils examine the scientific
evidence critically (rather than simply accepting
what is said at face value) and to point out
where Gore's view may be inaccurate or departs
from that of mainstream scientific opinion;

* where the film suggests that views should take
particular action at the political level (e.g. to
lobby their democratic representatives to vote
for measures to cut carbon emissions), teaching
staff must be careful to offer pupils a balanced
presentation of opposing views and not to promote
either the view expressed in the film or any other particular view.

"...I am satisfied that, with the Guidance Note,
as amended, the Defendant is setting the film
into a context in which it can be shown by
teachers, and not so that the Defendant itself or
the schools are promoting partisan views
contained in the film, and is putting it into a
context in which a balanced presentation of
opposing views can and will be offered. There is
no call for the Defendant to support the more
extreme views of Mr Gore – indeed the
Government's adherence is to the IPCC views -
...and that there are views of "sceptics" who do
not accept even the consensus views of the IPCC.
The Defendant will not be promoting partisan
political views by enabling the showing of AIT in
the context of the discussions facilitated by the
Guidance Note, and is not under a duty to forbid
the presentation of it in that context.

"... It is plain that the original press releases
of February were enthusiastically supportive of
the film, and did initially indicate an intent to
"influence". ....As Mr Downes has pointed out, if
it has taken this hearing to identify and correct
the flaws, it is impossible to think that
teachers could have done so untutored. I am
satisfied that, because insufficient attempt was
made to counter the more one-sided views of Mr
Gore, and, to some extent, by silence in the
Guidance Note, those views were adopted, or at
any rate discussion of them was not facilitated
(and no adequate warning was given), there would
have been a breach of ss406 and 407 of the Act
but for the bringing of these proceedings and the
conclusion that has now eventuated. Indeed the
spirit of co-operation in which this hearing has
been carried through is a tribute to constructive litigation.

In the circumstances, and for those reasons, in
the light of the changes to the Guidance Note
which the Defendant has agreed to make, and has
indeed already made, and upon the Defendant's
agreeing to send such amended Guidance Note out
in hard copy, no order is made on this
application, save in relation to costs, on which I shall hear Counsel.

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Received on Sun Oct 14 20:40:37 2007

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