Science education law draws national attention

Jul 14, 2014 By Aerin Curtis, MCT News Service

Wyoming students deserve classes that focus on the science of climate change and leave out political agendas.

That's the thought behind Thursday's launch of a Climate Science Students Bill of Rights by several national groups.

Groups involved include Climate Parents, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Center for Science Education and the Alliance for Climate Education.

"Our organizations are joining together to assert the right of all students in every state to learn the established science of climate change," Climate Parents member John Friedrich said.

Actions like that taken by the Wyoming Legislature earlier this year to block standards that include the teaching of climate science are what prompted the bill, Climate Parents director and co-founder Lisa Hoyos said Thursday.

"We were alarmed about what we saw in Wyoming, where fossil fuel supporters in the Legislature banned the Next Generation Science Standards for consideration by the Board of Education," she said. "This was a signal to us."

In Wyoming, the review of the state's current science standards was delayed when a budget footnote stripped funding from consideration of the Next Generation Science Standards, Wyoming for Science Education organizer and Climate Parents member Marguerite Herman of Cheyenne said.

"The (State Board of Education) has been ready to adopt those standards for about a year," she said.

When the footnote was passed, some legislators said they did not believe in human involvement in climate change and that the standards were against the fossil fuel industry.

Members of the State Board of Education recently voted to halt all further review work on Wyoming's science standards until the Legislature ends its prohibition of the Next Generation Science Standards.

"The next step, the thing that is going to break the logjam, is going to be the legislators' action when they convene in January," Herman said. "The Bill of Rights may give them the mandate they're looking for."

The document supports the ideas that students should be able to:

- Receive quality science education as determined by educators free from ideological or political interference.

- Explore the causes and consequences of climate change.

- Learn that ways to slow climate change exist.

- Examine the data and evidence on climate change in an environment that promotes questioning and understanding.

- Understand how climate science informs social, political and personal decisions.

Another point of the document is to let people involved in education know there is support for teaching students fact-based climate science, National Center for Science Education programs and policy director Mark McCaffrey said.

"(There are) overt efforts, as we've seen in Wyoming, to deliberately block the access of students to learn about climate science," he said. "And a lot of teachers don't have the background, or they think teaching both sides of a phony science controversy is a good plan."

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