At this time of the summer, when members of Congress return to their districts for town hall meetings often dominated by very vocal and very belligerent “Tea Party” activists, it is refreshing to see education officials in a conservative state resist pressures to make scientific standards conform to fundamentalist religious beliefs.
Last week, the Kentucky Board of Education did just that, approving the Next Generation Science Standards being considered by the Boards of Education of 26 states in an effort to create more uniform standards from state to state.
These standards carry over the previously approved parameters for teaching evolution and introduce some new standards for the teaching of climate science.
Declaring that the argument over evolution is scientifically moot, the Board described it as a “fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences” and emphasized that there is no “significant ongoing debate within the scientific community” about its validity. The Board also pointedly rejected proposals to encourage, if not mandate, the presentation of creationism as a competing scientific theory.
The standards approved by the Kentucky Board of Education still need to be approved by the legislative committees charged with oversight of public education in the state. No doubt, those committees will be lobbied hard by the same Far Right extremists who attempted to influence the decision by the Board of Education by denouncing the teaching of evolution and climate science as “fascistic” and “atheistic” and thereby tantamount to the promotion of the “socialistic” attitudes responsible for most “murder” and “genocide.”
These are the people who are visiting the Creation Museum and mistaking it for the American Museum of Natural History. In effect, hundreds of millions of years of evolution are squeezed into a biblical timeline of a few thousand years. So Adam and Eve are said to have co-existed with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Apatosaurs, and the last dinosaur is purported to have died in 1927. Tellingly, there is a nearby reconstruction of Noah’s Ark, though the need to accommodate huge dinosaurs and the Pleistocene megafauna would seem only to exacerbate the difficulties in preserving two of each existing species on a single vessel constructed out of timbers by a single family.
The map that follows shows the 26 states participating in development and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards:
The map largely reflects the politicization of issues related to public education, as well as many other areas of public service.
But there are several surprises on both sides. I wonder, for instance, why Connecticut, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Hawaii are not involved in this effort, and I may be even more surprised that Tennessee, Kansas, and North Dakota are involved.
Some other alignments that might seem surprising at first glance are with some reflection not quite so surprising. Among the typically more progressive states, at least on educational issues, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are currently controlled politically by the Far Right. For the same reason, it may actually be more surprising that Ohio and Michigan are involved than Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are not. And among the generally more conservative states, North Carolina and Arkansas, and in some instances even Georgia, have been more progressive on educational issues than on most other issues.