National groups launch science education campaign

2014-07-11T08:00:00Z National groups launch science education campaignBy LEAH TODD Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
July 11, 2014 8:00 am  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — A cohort of national science education groups is increasing efforts to lobby for educational standards that include the teaching of climate change.

Motivated in part by Wyoming lawmakers who banned a controversial set of K-12 science benchmarks earlier this year, the organizations launched a new campaign to draw support for the teaching of climate science in schools.

“As we see it, given the impact of climate change that we’re already seeing and what scientists say is at stake ... we just think it’s unacceptable for students to be denied information about this crisis,” said John Friedrich, of Climate Parents, one of the groups behind the campaign, which includes a website and petition.

Also signed on to the initiative are the National Center for Science Education, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Alliance for Climate Education.

They announced their campaign, which they call the Climate Science Students Bill of Rights, in a phone conference Thursday.

Educators decide

Representatives cited the Next Generation Science Standards in their remarks but said this campaign does not endorse a certain set of educational standards.

Instead, they say, all students should receive the highest-quality science education as determined by educators, not by ideological or political influence. Students should explore causes and consequences of climate change and learn that solutions to climate change exist, they say.

“Manufactured doubt and denial is a major issue in terms of teaching climate science,” said Mark McCaffrey, policy director at the National Center for Science Education.

McCaffrey said the debate over whether climate change is happening and whether humans are causing it is phony. Many teachers do not have backgrounds in climate science or think teaching “both sides” of climate change is a good practice, he said.

He called the Next Generation Science Standards an important tool to make sure teachers and students have access to current climate information.

Next Generation ban

In Wyoming, the state Board of Education recently stalled the entire process of updating its science standards until lawmakers repeal their ban on the Next Generation standards.

The ban surfaced in March in a last-minute budget footnote that prohibited the state Board of Education and Wyoming Department of Education from spending money to adopt the Next Generation standards.

Lawmakers at the time said they disagreed with the way the standards handle climate change as settled science.

Prior to the footnote, the board was poised to approve the standards, said Marguerite Herman, a Wyoming resident and member of Climate Parents.

“Now, we are advocating for the Legislature to act as soon as it convenes to restore the state board’s ability to consider all standards,” Herman said. “Then the board can get back to its job to write quality standards.”

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