VESTED INTERESTS: Naked and unafraid in Wyoming

Posted in News Last updated on: Monday, 11 July 2016

VESTED INTERESTS: Naked and unafraid in Wyoming

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for the no-bones-about-it teaching of evolution and human-caused climate change. States can choose whether to use them or not. In Wyoming, a committee of science teachers spent eighteen months studying the standards and voted unanimously to adopt. But in a state dominated by the oil, gas, and coal industries, the legislature voted them down. The surprise was the naked explanation offered by the Board of Education's chairman, Ron Micheli: "They're very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development."

Blindfolding students in the name of money? South Carolina's Superindendent of Education, Mick Zals, took care to avoid this sort of inadvertent transparency: “I am pleased to announce that we have rejected the Common Core Science Standards and adopted high-level, science standards that are appropriate for South Carolina.”

It's a shock to see states' educational leaders proudly keep their students' eyes wide shut. Knowledge is indeed disruptive. So is Nature. The next hurricane pinwheeling up the Atlantic seaboard won't choose where to come ashore based on community standards. The truth, like a vaccination, hurts in the short term but protects you in the long. These states have opted out. The good news: students in New Jersey, Connecticut, Iowa, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Vermont, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia--as of February 2016--have been deemed fit to receive science's latest findings in full.



Outcry about the inferior education being offered in Wyoming has had an impact.  A bill pending the governor's signature would remove the objection to NGSS, though the state board of education would retain the power to reconsider (and decline to teach?) what the standards call for.  The bill hasn't been signed and it's hard to tell if this u-turn is more than PR.  A similar protest in West Virginia was apparently successful in restoring NGSS.

A study in Science found that science teachers spent only an average of 1-2 hours a year on climate change and that misinformation was common.  See coverage here.