A national multi-state effort to create new standards in science education was announced this week. For the first time, science curriculum identifies climate change as a core concept and emphasizes the role that human activity has on climate systems.
The Next Generation Science Standards for state education curriculums is a joint effort of the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the nonprofit group Achieve. The new standards are the first extensive national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by scientists and experts in 26 states, but they are optional.
So this means some middle and high school students enrolled in the American public school system will soon be required to study climate change as a scientific occurrence. About 40 U.S. states are expected to identify climate change as a man-made problem. Environmentalists are cheering, but unfortunately the issue is just as charged in the educational arena as the political one.
“Climate change is not a political issue and climate change is not a debate. It is science,” Mario Molina, deputy director at the Alliance for Climate Education, told the Guardian. “It is strongly supported heavily researched science, and our hope is that teachers will not see this as a political issue or a political debate.”
Unfortunately, some very vocal Americans do not consider climate change scientific. They see it as a controversial issue that shouldn’t be taught in schools. “It’s a shame that American school kids are being taught claims of certitude on an issue that continues to unravel before our eyes,” Marco Morano, communications director for Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, told The Washington Examiner, while referencing studies that suggest climate change has nothing to do with human actions. “To teach kids there’s a consensus… is a major disservice to children, and a disservice to education,” he added.
Here’s how the New York Times describes the new standards: “Educators involved in drawing them up said the guidelines were intended to combat widespread scientific ignorance, to standardize teaching among states, and to raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college, a critical issue for the country’s economic future.”
“The focus would be helping students become more intelligent science consumers by learning how scientific work is done: how ideas are developed and tested, what counts as strong or weak evidence, and how insights from many disciplines fit together into a coherent picture of the world.”
Meanwhile, The UK Department of Education has introduced a proposal that would completely ban climate change from educational discussions, due to its controversial nature. Children under 14 will no longer be able to learn about the human impact on climate change.
So the battle to educate Earth’s children about climate change rages on, but at least it will soon be an option in the U.S.