Common Core advocates like to claim that their initiative is state-based. This is an argument that is easily debunked by any reasonable person when you look at the special interests involved and the fact state legislatures were cut out of the process. Those behind the Next Generation Science Standards are making a similar claim. In a piece in the Wall Street Journal (pay wall), Paul Tice, pokes a rather large hole in that argument.
While publicly billed as the result of a state-led process, the new science standards rely on a framework developed by the Washington, D.C.-based National Research Council. That is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences that works closely with the federal government on most scientific matters.
And this framework has an agenda which is a harder pill to swallow for some states. So far only 13 states and the District of Columbia have signed onto these standards.
All of the National Research Council’s work around global warming proceeds from the initial premise of its 2011 report, “America’s Climate Choices” which states that “climate change is already occurring, is based largely on human activities, and is supported by multiple lines of scientific evidence.” From the council’s perspective, the science of climate change has already been settled. Not surprisingly, global climate change is one of the disciplinary core ideas embedded in the Next Generation of Science Standards, making it required learning for students in grade, middle and high school.
There is more… Tice notes a reliance on Federal source material.
Many of the background materials and classroom resources used by instructors in teaching the new curriculum are sourced from government agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has an array of ready-to-download climate-change primers for classroom use by teachers, including handouts on the link between carbon dioxide and average global temperatures and tear sheets on the causal relationship between greenhouse-gas emissions and rising sea levels.
Similarly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Energy Department have their own Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network, or Clean, which serves as an online portal for the distribution of digital resources to help educators teach about climate change. One such learning module requires students to measure the size of their family’s carbon footprint and come up with ways to shrink it.
Relying on a climate-change curriculum and teaching materials largely sourced from federal agencies—particularly those of the current ideologically driven administration—raises a number of issues. Along with the undue authoritative weight that such government-produced documents carry in the classroom, most of the work is one-sided and presented in categorical terms, leaving no room for a balanced discussion. Moreover, too much blind trust is placed in the predictive power of long-range computer simulations, despite the weak forecasting track record of most climate models to date.
Tice also notes the one-sided nature of the federal source material short circuits the overall goals of the Next Generation Science Standards.
This is unfortunate because the topic of man-made global warming, properly taught, would present many teachable moments and provide an example of the scientific method in action. Precisely because the science of climate change is still just a theory, discussion would help to build student skills in critical thinking, argumentation and reasoning, which is the stated objective of the new K-12 science standards.
State-led and state-driven indeed!