Mother Jones has an article by Andy Kroll about how the state of New Mexico has watered down a widespread and excellent secondary school science curriculum (grades kindergarden through 12): the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) developed in conjunction with National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The state’s public education department released a document (here) that proposes changes to its existing standards that have changed some of the NGSS guidelines.
And these changes aren’t random: in the main, they water down evolution, remove evidence for the age of the earth, and imply that global warming is a “fluctuation” rather than a trend. Glenn Branch of the NCSE reacted:
“These changes are evidently intended to placate creationists and climate change deniers,” says Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group that defends the teaching of climate change, evolution, and other scientific-backed subjects in the classroom. The proposed changes, Branch added, “would dumb down New Mexico’s science education.”
You can read the article for yourself, but I’ll give some screenshots of how the language was changed. Mother Jones crossed out words from the original NGSS guidelines and put in bold the new, added words. This is a really bad one that gives the state’s hand away:
Whitewashing of global warming:
One more on evolution, which replaces “process of evolution” with “biological diversity”. It leaves in the concept of natural selection, but omits that it’s an important cause of evolutionary change:
I’m not sure what’s going on overall because they did miss some chances to further denigrate evolution; this, for example, remains in the document:
(10) Natural Selection and Evolution
(a) HS-LS4-1: Analyze, interpret, and communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.
That, in fact, is a good thing: a way to show that evolution is supported by many areas of biology. But the changes above—particularly the replacement of “4.6 billion year old” history of the Earth with “geologic history” of the Earth, is clearly a blatant attempt to avoid telling kids how old their planet is. After all, we don’t want to offend those Christians who think it’s 10,000 years old!
According to Mother Jones, the public can give comments on this proposal, and there’s a hearing in Santa Fe on October 16. I hope the science teachers of New Mexico are aware of this, and will weigh in as the teachers of Texas did when a similar attempt to bowdlerize state science standards occurred a few years back. If you’re one of these New Mexico teachers (or university professors), do something!
Oh, and the state government is firmly behind this. A quote from the article:
In April, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, vetoed legislation that would have forced the state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. Martinez said the law was too strict and that the state’s education department was already in the process of crafting its own science standards—the standards the department released earlier this week.
Of course she’s a Republican: I haven’t seen any Democrat engage in such shenanigans. Finally, Mother Jones contacted the state’s Public Education Department for a comment, and here’s the spokeswoman’s response. It’s a masterpiece of saying nothing in a lot of words:
“The PED has and will continue to listen and respond to input from all of New Mexico’s stakeholders across the state when putting together new content standards, from the fine arts to the STEM fields, that haven’t been updated in the last decade. It is time for New Mexico to again raise the bar. We must come together and push forward so that our kids can prepare to advance in their career prospects in the 21st century,” said Deputy Secretary of School Transformation Debbie Montoya. “As science, technology, and engineering advance in concert with our business and industry partners, New Mexico is working hard to ensure that children have access to the most rigorous standards and assessments while also expanding science resources and opportunity for schools and educators.”
Pardon my French, but that’s just complete bullshit—a statement worthy of Sean Spicer.