Evolution and Climate Change Come to Kansas
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 14, 2013
The state of Kansas has been a high-profile hotbed of creationist activity for quite some time, with battles over state science standards including (or not including) even a mere mention of evolution and, in recent years, climate change. The strategy on the part of creationists goes as follows: if we aren’t allowed to teach creationism, specifically one brand called young-earth creationism, then we’ll make it so that nobody can learn evolution, either. Global warming deniers are also employing a similar strategy in many states.
Of course, in the budding 21st century, if enough states in the United States allow creationists and global warming deniers to drive the discussion, then this is a recipe for disaster in terms of our nation’s capability to generate well-educated young students who are ready to tackle the looming scientific and technological challenges of our age.
Enter the Next Generation Science Standards, which Kansas has recently adopted (mostly because they helped to actually write the standards), that mandate the teaching of both evolution and climate change in a manner which is broadly interwoven into the curricula of public school science classes…
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Kansas state school board Tuesday approved new, multi-state science standards for public schools that treat both evolution and climate change as key concepts to be taught from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
The State Board of Education voted 8-2 on for standards developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council. The new guidelines are designed to shift the emphasis in science classes to doing hands-on projects and experiments and blending material about engineering and technology into lessons.
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“I can concentrate on teaching processes — teaching kids how to think like scientists,” said Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, who teaches physics at Hays High School and traveled to Topeka to publicly endorse the new standards as vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science. “I’m more concerned whether they can design and analyze an experiment. That’s what science is all about.”
Past work on science standards in Kansas have been overshadowed by debates about how evolution should be taught. The latest standards were adopted in 2007 and treat evolution as a well-established, core scientific concept, but Kansas law requires the academic standards to be updated at least once every seven years.
Though the new standards drew some criticism over their treatment of evolution, it wasn’t anywhere as vocal or public as in the past. Together, Democrats and moderate Republicans control the board, and social conservatives wanting to inject skepticism of evolution into the standards were likely to have found little support.
The same political factors blunted criticism of the standards’ proposed treatment of climate change as an important concept that should be part to lessons in all grades, rather than treated separately in upper-level high school classes…
There has been some pushback from certain political quarters, which tend to be ideologically aligned with creationists and climate change deniers, that these standards are taking away states’ rights. Nothing could be further from the truth, seeing as how the NGSS are NOT a federal mandate because they were written by states who volunteered to put them together. So, if anything, the NGSS is actually strongly in favor of states rights!
Looks like public science education in the United States might just finally be evolving 🙂