Political debates revolving around creationism and climate change are now paving their way into American schools, as more states seem welcoming of the new common science standards that emphasize on controversial topics like evolution and global warming. However, critics of the revised standards say the standards fail to consider all perspectives when discussing evolution and do not represent the issue of human influence on global warming accurately.
The District of Columbia along with twelve other states has already adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were created by a group of national science and education institutions. On the other hand, Wyoming became the first state in America to officially reject NGSS despite a group of current and former educators at the University of Wyoming insisting that the state reconsider its position, since most of the critiques of NGSS display a misunderstanding of the language and nature of science.
In a letter to the state board of education, they said, “A major goal of science education is to transform classrooms to "communities of scientists, where students use scientific practices in concert with the crosscutting concepts and core knowledge to develop their understanding… of scientific literacy... The actions of the legislature and Governor Mead have denied teachers and students access to the most powerful tool available to make this happen. As a result, our students will not be as well prepared for college or the world of work as students from states who have implemented NGSS.”
Recent polls by Gallup say approximately half of America (46 percent) believes in creationism when asked about the origin of the human race and one in four Americans are skeptical about humans having anything to do with climate change. What is unfortunate is that these views are apparent in some of America’s public schools as well, with Tennessee and Louisiana both having laws that allow alternatives to evolution to be taught to students.
Even though NGSS has not been developed by the same entities that created the Common Core State Standards for English and Math, it is similar in that it outlines academic parameters for what students in kindergarten through 12th grade need to know about various topics including physical life, space sciences and the earth. Yet, NGSS has been adopted at a much slower pace compared to the Common Core – while only 10 of the 26 states involved in making it have adopted NGSS, almost all 48 states that worked on the Common Core has adopted it. Not to mention, the backlash for the Common Core has not been nearly as political or vitriolic.
The two largest teachers unions in America, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have said they are in favour of NGSS.
“The Next Generation Science Standards have seamlessly incorporated science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts into each performance expectation… Critical thinking and problem-solving are embedded throughout as students use mathematical and computational thinking to construct explanations and design solutions based on understanding of concepts rather than coverage of topics,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
But, the critics of NGSS have suggested not enough is known about evolution or human involvement in climate change to have the common science standards be introduced in schools.
Despite what advocates and critics of NGSS have to say, the bottom line remains, majority of scientifically inclined minds believe there is no harm in discussing these topics with children at schools while religiously inclined minds continue to strongly object to the same.