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New Science Standards Face Uphill Battle

The loudest complaint about the Common Core standards for reading and math is that teachers were not adequately consulted. But what about the Next Generation Science Standards? ("Science Standards Divide a State Built on Coal and Oil," The New York Times, May 19).

Consider the situation in Wyoming.  After 18 months of study and comparison with standards from other states, a committee of science educators unanimously recommended that the State Board of Education adopt the guidelines.  Nevertheless, the Wyoming Legislature banned any public spending to implement the standards.  Lawmakers did so because of the part of the standards regarding climate science. They saw the inclusion of the subject as a direct threat to Wyoming's economy.  

I've never been to Wyoming, but what is happening there is a reminder that no subject is immune from meddling by outsiders. In this case, the motive ostensibly is economic because the state is highly dependent on coal and oil.  It is the nation's largest energy exporter.  Therefore, you'd think that oil companies like Exxon and Chevron would be against the Next Generation Science Standards.  Yet they surprisingly support them. 

But the larger question is what the rejection means for students in Wyoming.  Just as students were shortchanged in states where the teaching of evolution in science class was challenged, so too will they be shortchanged by the rejection of climate science.  Teachers who are certified in science have knowledge that politicians do not possess.  When science teachers came to a unanimous decision about the Next Generation, that should have been the end of the matter.  

Instead, Wyoming has the dubious distinction of being the first state to reject the standards.  But it won't be the last by any means, proving once again that what teachers think is beside the point.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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