New Mexico, with input from science and public, doesn’t water down its science standards

October 19, 2017 • 10:30 am

UPDATE: I have an email from Glenn Branch, who works for the National Center for Science Education, correcting the news report (and therefore the post below). I quote with his permission, and with thanks:

The US News and World Report version of the AP story on New Mexico’s science standards leaves out a lot of details, and it’s not accurate to say that “the state department of education backed down” tout court et sans phrase.

The worst of the changes that undermined the scientific accuracy of the standards’ treatment of evolution, the age of the earth, and climate change have been removed, but even as amended the proposed standards are still distinctly weaker than the Next Generation Science Standards on evolution and climate change. The Public Education Department’s announcement failed to address the absence of a middle school standard about embryological evidence for evolution or the omission of “due to human activity” from a high school standard about Earth’s systems, for example. It remains to be seen whether the Public Education Department will revise the proposed standards further.

According to the Santa Fe Reporter (October 18, 2017), “Despite the statement issued late Tuesday night, [Secretary-Designate of Education Christopher] Ruszkowski has not released a formal version of what his department spokeswoman says is a new proposal on the way.”


In these dire times when American government is going down the tubes, we sometimes see a glimmer of rationality. We have one today from New Mexico.

As I reported about a month ago, New Mexico was set to water down its science curriculum about the usual issues: evolution, global warming, and even the age of the Earth. As I wrote then:

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.

Here are two of those proposed changes.

Danger! Mushbrains and believers at work! But in the end, reason prevailed. According to several sources, including US News and World Report, after a public meeting in which the public vociferously opposed these changes, and after scientists (and entire departments in state universities) wrote in, the state department of education backed down.

New Mexico‘s proposed school science standards are being revised after a public outcry against the deletion or omission of references to global warming, evolution and the age of the Earth.

Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski announced Tuesday several changes to the final version of the state standards that incorporate suggestions from the public.

The Public Education Department says final standards will restore references to the 4.6 billion-year age of the Earth, the rise in global temperatures over the past century and the process of evolution due to genetic variation. A complete version of the final standards was not released.

Public comments at a packed public hearing Monday were overwhelmingly critical of state revisions to a set of standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences.

There was also a letter (made into an ad) signed by 61 scientists, most of them physicists and many from Los Alamos, which you can see here.  Curiously, few biologists signed, though they may have weighed in through group letters from universities (I know of at least one).

The changes shown above, and others, were so blatantly creationist and anti-science that it would have been a huge embarrassment to New Mexico, and to its rational inhabitants, to have this stuff publicized. In the end reason triumphed, but it may have occurred only to avoid public shaming. But I’ll take what I can get.

h/t: Avis, Woody


8 thoughts on “New Mexico, with input from science and public, doesn’t water down its science standards

  1. I still don’t trust them. They could just adopt the national standards, yet they are still planning to make some revisions.

  2. It also shows the grim nature of things in this county when you have to fight just to express the the truth and the evidence.

  3. In the end reason triumphed, but it may have occurred only to avoid public shaming.

    And this is why transparency in government is vital. Without the opportunity to shame our public officials, who knows what would happen. As the Washington Post declaims: “Democracy dies in the dark.”

    1. OK the nucular folks in Los Alamos seem to care about science.

      Might be time for the rocket-heads in Houston and Huntsville to step up.

      And yes, the life-sciences people should care more. But who listens to them?

  4. “In the end reason triumphed, but it may have occurred only to avoid public shaming.”

    Public shaming an unlikely aid of reason in the 21st century?
    All praise to Embarrassment!

Leave a Reply