New national science standards could make climate change education part of the public school curriculum. The new Next Generation Science Standards were developed in a collaborative effort by the National Research Council (NRC), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, along with 26 states.
These new standards apply to students from kindergarten to high school, and will include information about the human contribution to climate change such as emission of greenhouse gases and the use of fossil fuels. Along with the 26 states involved in the development of the curriculum, 15 other states have said they will likely adopt the new standards.
But there are still barriers to the reach of the new science standards. Texas, for one, will not be teaching the new information. And there are still opponents and climate change science deniers who believe that teachers have the right to teach the “controversy” of climate change. The problem with this idea of “teaching the controversy” is that it’s meant to fuel the perception that there is in fact a controversy, which is simply not the case. Climate change is real, climate scientists overwhelmingly agree, and students have not been receiving straightforward information about it.
Some states have sought to enact Academic Freedom bills, based largely on propaganda from the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank well-known for backing anti-evolution education in schools. Last month, Colorado became the seventh state this year to introduce such a bill; these bills are typically marketed as protecting teachers and allowing for an “open environment” in which “controversies” like climate change and evolution can be taught “objectively.”
The main effect of Academic Freedom bills is to perpetuate confusion and spread skepticism about climate change and evolution. Because they have been unable to include Creationism and Intelligent Design rhetoric in school curriculums, regressives are using the bills to foment doubt about standards of modern science.
A representative from the Heartland Institute, a heavyweight in the arena of climate change science denial, told InsideClimate News that the Next Generation Science Standards’s information about climate change is based on “unscientific speculation and hype.” However, it has been 15 years since school science standards were revised, and a recent poll shows that 97% of voters believe it is important to improve the quality of science education in the U.S. Fortunately, climate change education and new science standards will be coming to classrooms in at least 40 states this year.