In March 2009, the Texas State Board of Education finalized its new standards for science education. Soon thereafter, in the Summer 2009 issue of the The Earth Scientist , the quarterly journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA), Steven Newton, Public Information Project Director for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), took issue with the new standards.
Specifically, Newton singled out a handful of amendments which he said “weakened the standards” and “opened to door … to bring non-scientific ideas into the science classroom.”
He took issue with minor changes to wording concerning teaching of, among other subjects, the age of the universe, changes in the earth’s atmosphere, and fossils. Referring to these amendments, Newton summed up his comments this way,
“[The] amendments sought to cast doubt upon well-established earth science ideas. The language changes are subtle but significant, hinting to students that scientists do not really know as much as they claim to understand.” (page 31)
My personal favorite had to do with the teaching of global warming. Newton complained that the new standards did not require a presumption that global warming exists. Instead the standards allow different views to be examined. Newton contended:
In Environmental Systems, Texas students are now required to “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.” This is the language of global warming denialists, not of the scientific community.” (page 33)
Is it unscientific to analyze and evaluate different views? Newton is writing here as a representative of the NCSE, so I referred back the NCSE website. Here’s what the NCSE says about its reason for existence:
The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. … Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.
I’m left wondering, if science and the scientific method are the guiding principles for science education, why is there a problem with students being allowed to analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming?
I’m also wondering, who is the denialist here?