The quality of science education in Wyoming public schools is at risk after state lawmakers rejected national science standards because they – gasp – acknowledge the human role in global warming.
One would think that since 99.9% of scientists agree that climate change is real, discussing its existence would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do in a science classroom. However, Wyoming politicians had another idea, deciding to tack a denial of the science standards on an education budgetary bill. As a result, teachers and educational experts are unable to even formally discuss the merits of the national standards.
Though the Next Generation Science Standards are currently being implemented in states throughout the United States, Wyoming is the first to shut them down. For lawmakers, apparently, the increasingly non-debatable subject of climate change is still debatable.
“I don’t accept, personally, that it is a fact,” said Ron Micheli, the Chairman of Wyoming’s Board of Education. “[The standards are] very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development.” How nice to see a man tasked with ensuring Wyoming children receive a quality education is primarily concerned with big business instead.
He’s not the only politician with this perspective. State Representative Matt Teeters, a Republican who authored the amendment on the budget, said, “There’s all kind of social implications involved in [the standards] that I don’t think would be good for Wyoming.” Teeters pointed out that Wyoming is the country’s largest exporter of energy, and he feels obligated to stand with the oil, gas and coal industry.
Of course, wishing it weren’t true because it’s not convenient to the state’s economy and having it actually not be true are two different things entirely. Moreover, it’s extremely shortsighted to think that supporting businesses that rely on finite resources is somehow “better” for Wyoming than protecting the environment for future generations of Wyoming residents.
Prior to the vote, 30 scientific experts recommended that the Next Generation Science Standards be utilized by Wyoming. A poll conducted in Wyoming found that 74% of parents approved of the new standards, including the references to climate change. Neither of these endorsements mattered to the legislators, evidently.
If climate change is addressed in the classroom, Micheli would like it to be referenced as a “theory.” Additionally, he would like to see it accompanied by a discussion of how mineral extraction has benefited Wyoming. Again, Micheli seems to have some interest that supersedes his commitment to improving education in Wyoming. Please promise not to show this man Ohio’s frightful pro-fracking science class activities.
Though Wyoming does have some existing science standards, they have not been significantly updated in more than a decade. By most accounts, the Next Generation Science Standards are more rigorous and useful for today’s students, so rejecting them in favor of a political agenda ultimately hurts the kids – kids who will undoubtedly need that scientific background to understand and address the impending problems that climate change will pose.