No Climate in Science

New Mexico proposal nixes climate, evolution from public curriculum

By Ellen Loehman, New Mexico Science Teachers Assocation

On Sept. 13, the New Mexico Public Education Department quietly released a draft version of new science standards. For non-educators, standards determine what is taught and what is tested in New Mexico public schools (including charter schools). They have widespread importance – from textbooks and curriculum to standardized testing to teacher evaluation.

The current science standards date from 2003 and were developed by teams of New Mexico teachers and community members, including a few scientists and members of the intelligent-design community. They are not bad, as standards go, but they are outdated and problematic for a variety of reasons.

Since 2013, professional, educational and other organizations have been urging Gov. Susana Martinez and PED to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. There are many reasons these standards are superior, most importantly that they were developed under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences. They explicitly include the best consensus of scientific understanding, including Earth’s history, evolution and climate change.

In its draft release, the PED made subtle changes to the Next Generation standards that smack of political interference. The PED will not say who developed the altered standards, and they did not give reasons for the changes (and, in fact, they are not required to justify the changes).

As expected in this administration, the changes are within the topics of evolution, Earth’s history and climate change. “Climate change” was renamed “climate fluctuation.” A reference to Earth’s
“4.6 billion-year-old history” was changed to “geologic history.” “Minimizing” human impact became “managing” impact.

The standards that were added pay particular homage to oil and gas developers. One such example is “Describe the benefits associated with technologies related to the local industries and energy production.” The omission of associated risks is glaring.

Scientific organizations, educational institutions, environmental groups, professional organizations, and even newspapers have been quick to denounce this outrage. You can, too. The Public Education Department is holding a required public hearing from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 16 in Santa Fe. This, of course, ensures that neither teachers nor students will be able to participate in the public hearing. You can also submit written comments electronically or by mail until Oct. 16. Send comments to
rule.feedback@state.nm.us. Please urge the department to adopt the unedited Next Generation Standards. For more information, please visit nmsta.org.

Image from Idaho National Lab via Flickr.

No Climate in Science