Lawmakers in the state of Wyoming recently became the first lawmakers in the country to block the education department of its state from implementing the new Next Generation Science Standards. This blog has written multiple pieces about the gradual adoption of NGSS, which 9 states and DC have already adopted.
Before diving into the issue in Wyoming, let’s look at a few key myths and facts about NGSS (from the Wyoming Star Tribune):
Myth: The same federally funded groups developed the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards in English and math.
Fact: The Next Generation Science Standards were developed independently of the Common Core State Standards. Several groups were involved, including:
- National Research Council
- National Science Teachers Association
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- the nonprofit education reform group, Achieve
At the bottom of each page of the science standards, however, are suggested ways teachers can connect science with Common Core State Standards in English and math.
What do the standards teach about climate change?
- Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.
- Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.
- Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming).
- Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.
What do the standards teach about evolution?
- Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.
In a recent session of the Wyoming State Legislature, Gov. Matt Mead signed, as part of a budgetary footnote, a bill that in some capacity limits Wyoming schools from teaching NGSS. There is a dispute as to whether the law means that no part of NGSS can be taught or if it cannot function as the main science standards even though selections from it can be taught.
Wyoming is a state that has seen a recent economic boom thanks in large part to extraction of various minerals and fossil fuels. In particular, fracking is being used in certain parts of the state to extract deeply entrenched oil and natural gas. The fact that NGSS clearly cites human usage of fossil fuels as a factor in global warming, then, is a problem for some lawmakers in Wyoming.
There has been pushback from Democrats in the state as well as some parent groups who believe that blocking the standards is a clear case of political tampering with education. These groups cite the fact that the new law was passed despite a committee of about 30 science specialists unanimously recommending NGSS.
The specific request of those who passed the bill is that the standards be revised to present climate change as a theory, instead of a fact, and to present the benefits mineral extraction has brought Wyoming.
For more information, please visit: http://trib.com/news/local/education/wyoming-blocks-new-science-standards/article_5d0ec624-6b50-5354-b015-ca2f5f7d7efe.html