Wyoming rejects science education standards over climate change
By John Timmer (Ars Technica) - March 17, 2014
Over the past several years, a number of states have worked with organizations including the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to develop new standards for teaching science in public schools. The result, termed the Next Generation Science Standards, provides states with a chance to update their science education goals to focus more on the scientific process. So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards.
But the process hasn’t always been smooth. In Kentucky, the Governor adopted them over the objections of state legislators. In Kansas, the adoption resulted in a lawsuit that sought to block their adoption. Now, in the latest wrinkle, the Wyoming legislature has preemptively blocked their use in that state.
The problem isn’t with the educational approach taken by the standards; rather, it’s with their content. The Next-Gen Standards include the modern understanding of evolution and climate science. The lawsuit mentioned above claims that the standards violate religious freedom by compelling students to study evolution.
Wyoming doesn’t appear to have issues with evolution. Instead, climate science appears to be the problem. That’s not because any of the legislators have actually studied the science involved and found it lacking. The issue appears to be solely with the implications of the science.
The Casper Star Tribune is reporting that Wyoming became the first state to block the use of the Next Generation Science Standards through the use of a last-minute budget provision authored in part by State Representative Matt Teeters. It quotes him as saying “[The standards] handle global warming as settled science. There’s all kind of social implications involved in that that I don’t think would be good for Wyoming.” Specifically, Teeters seems to think that having citizens of the state accept climate science would “wreck Wyoming’s economy,” which relies heavily on fossil fuel production.
The article also quotes the Chair of the State Board of Education as saying the board voted to “revise the standards to present climate change as a theory, instead of a fact, and to present the benefits mineral extraction has brought Wyoming.”
Meanwhile, nobody seems quite sure what the implications of the legislature’s budget provision are. The intent appears to be to compel the State Board to adopt the standards piecemeal, but it’s not clear whether it has the power to do so, or if the language was clear enough to produce this result.