New Mexico school standards water down evolution, geology, and climate change

September 19, 2017 • 9:00 am

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:

And a Republican sop to local technology—a question for students to answer:

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.

h/t: Charleen

25 thoughts on “New Mexico school standards water down evolution, geology, and climate change

  1. This incident is but one reflection of the conservative worldview that now dominates its tool, the Republican Party. In the areas of science, economics, social policy, and religion, conservatives have a coherent (although odious) ideology that has managed to weld together a coalition that has control of all branches of the national government as well as most state governments. Due to factors such as gerrymandering, voter suppression, the power of corporations and political incompetence of the Democrats compared to Republicans, Democrats and liberals have failed to win elections that would result in policies the opposite to those of the Republicans.

    Regardless of what one may think of Republicans, they have been masterful politicians. In my estimation, they have learned something that Democrats haven’t, namely, people vote more on cultural issues than economic ones. Hence, Trump supporters worship him, not because of, say, his tax proposals, which they little understand or care about, but rather because he promises to “make America great again.” In other words, Republicans and their current spokesman, Trump, promise to restore a mythic world of white, conservative domination. This is why they are so opposed to immigration (legal as well as illegal) because the “others” threaten the restoration of their white fantasyland.

    The conclusion to all this is that if you want evolution taught in schools and religion out of the public square then you must get involved in the solution, which is politics. Democrats and liberals face a daunting challenge considering the current state of the political structure in the country. I do not consider the challenge impossible, but Democrats need a new generation of leadership that understands what it takes to effectuate political change. If this doesn’t happen, you can expect creationism to become the norm in public schools and the separation of church and state to be nothing more than a fond memory.

    1. “Regardless of what one may think of Republicans, they have been masterful politicians.”

      Just like the Scientologists, who seem to have created amazingly effective brainwashing and manipulation techniques despite *their* particular disdaining of evidence and what is actually known.

  2. “they did miss some chances to further denigrate evolution”

    I’d guess they couldn’t find a simple way to obscure the idea of natural selection without creating a non-grammatical mess. I’m sure many of the censors are looking forward to deleting the whole thing on the next iteration.

    1. They are very stupid — I say this from Santa Fe. The gov Susana sets the pace. She is a gas & oil shill from the south end of NM. No one thinks she has a brain. Her education secretary from Florida was not qualified to sell real estate, and after 5-6 years of not being confirmed by the NM Senate, finally was, and then left. We’ve had some great, if weird, governors, like Gary the Libertarian and Bill Richardson (who was quite good, with some bad habits, like cigars and late night carousing with drunk state cop drivers). One of the worst states in most hopeful demographics, and Susana leads the pack. Glad to get the heads-up on the hearing. May wander over there.

  3. At a local level this can be fought. Los Alamos (NM) Public Schools administration is aware of this and will likely fight any dogma pushed by Intelligent Design.

  4. At least a good science teacher would have no difficulty working with this. He/she would expect students to do their own research and correctly conclude that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, the fluctuation in temperature has the form of a gradual and disastrous rise, the process responsible for biological diversity has a name, and the main benefits associated with technologies related to the local industries and energy production are those that reduce impact to the environment.

    After all, a student might be more likely to learn and respect scientific facts if they come from a variety of sources rather than one heathen school teacher.

    My point: It could be worse.

    1. Could be worse. Sure, you betcha. What couldn’t? You don’t seem to allow for the “permission” this gives to the regular, mostly Catholic or evangelical teachers in NM. It is bad now, one of the worst states for educational achievement, and you think suddenly teachers will fill the gap. Your comment could be worse, but is silly and nonsensical in the real world, here in New Mexico, or elsewhere.

  5. Americans are in a competition with the rest of the world. We’re trying to become the most ignorant of all first-world nations. We are also working hard at becoming the least healthy. That shining beacon on the hill? Due to republican ideology, it has been turned off indefinitely.

    1. Spending the morning indoors due to rain. Watching coverage of Trump at the UN, I got the sense that he was going to be removed from office, and that it needs to happen soon. Or maybe I need to switch over to Fox. I’m sure he’s actually the best president ever. Maybe it’s just the rain, but you guys seem really screwed.

      1. Just one of many examples of Trump the clueless today at the U.N. is his total disregard for the Treaty with Iran, that put their nuclear program on hold, while accomplishing nothing on North Korea when it is the Iranian deal or something like it that might be worked with North Korea. We are doomed with this idiot.

      2. “I’m sure he’s actually the best president ever.”

        That should say “bestest” instead of “best”, and you left out “everyone is sating that, believe me”.

  6. It occurs to me there’s a bad pun somewhere about creationist flood geology “watering down” the science standards.

  7. Pardon my French, but that’s just complete bullshit—a statement worthy of Sean Spicer.

    Pardonnez mon Anglais, but that’s complete connerie…

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