A “wave of state bills could threaten science and climate education,” the Washington Post reported on Monday.
Lawmakers from Connecticut to Florida have proposed measures “that some groups say could threaten how science and climate change are taught in the classroom,” wrote Paulina Firozi of the Post. “More than a dozen such bills have popped up this year, including from state lawmakers pushing back against broad scientific consensus that people are warming the planet, according to the National Center for Science Education.”
That’s more such bills than the National Center for Science Education usually fights in a year, Firozi wrote, without noting that most legislation at the state level for 2019 already has been introduced because most legislative sessions occur in the first few weeks of the year.
She also does not mention that the National Center for Science Education is not a clearinghouse for information by scientists but rather a membership organization that focuses on culture war issues, such as evolution. Some scientists do belong, as do some teachers, but many of the 4,500 members of the Oakland-based organization are students, pastors and “citizens of varied religious and political affiliations.”
She does suggest the timing is bad – the measures, she wrote, “have emerged as many young people around the nation and world intend to skip school this week to demand government action on climate change, and as there is renewed emphasis in Washington on a Green New Deal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, despite skepticism from President Trump and his appointees have expressed about the state and causes of global warming.”
The bills were introduced before the school-skipping events were announced, and there is not “renewed emphasis in Washington on a Green New Deal” because the Green New Deal has not been discussed by a congressional committee.
But although many of these measures “have already failed, they’re an example of how the climate debate is trickling down to the states, where there’s entrenchment from some conservatives as the issue rises in importance in national politics.”
There’s “no evidence they will necessarily pass,” Firozi wrote, which brings up the question of why the story was written. But the measures would affect public education in a range of ways, she wrote, “from removing language about climate science from statewide standards to repealing those state standards for science instruction or by broadly requiring ‘balance’ in the teaching of ‘controversial issues.’”
She quotes a lawmaker from Connecticut saying, “’To be just resigned in the comfort of consensus is not science at all,’” and another from Florida saying his legislation would require schools to teach “’controversial theories and concepts’ in science standards in a ‘factual, objective and balanced matter.’”
She then says, without evidence, “there’s little debate within the scientific community about the reality and severity of climate change.”
Firozi then quotes a National Center for Science Education executive saying it’s important people know about these bills are introduced because “’The only way to be sure they don’t pass is to raise public awareness of them and to localize concerns about the integrity of the public science education by speaking about them.’”
Firozi wrote that the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication claims 79 percent of adults “believe schools should teach about climate change causes and potential solutions.” The polling actually says 79 percent support the statement that “Schools should teach about global warming.”
Support for teaching about global warming does not extend to the legislation the National Center for Science Education opposes. But “that support is reflected in the effort from lawmakers in Connecticut and Washington who want to bolster climate education” – in the case of Connecticut by going beyond recognized standards on teaching global warming and in Washington by “requiring schools to teach science ‘with special reference to the environmental and sustainability standards.’”
The Washington lawmaker then gives away the game. “We cannot crack this nut and deal with it until we believe it’s true and we start teaching young people about it and have them help us come up with a solution.”