Kids Caught in Crossfire of Climate Education Battle

Conservative Republican lawmakers who won election in 2010 and 2014 are leading efforts for legislatures to play a more direct role in managing states' schools, including deciding what should be taught in classrooms. (Photo: Christopher Sessums/flickr/cc)

Kids Caught in Crossfire of Climate Education Battle

New science standards require students be taught climate change as a scientific fact. They face resistance in several states from climate skeptics.

While President Barack Obama wants to protect young people from the catastrophic effects of global warming, school boards and lawmakers in some states are fighting to prevent students from learning the science of climate change.

In the most recent skirmish, parents and science educators in West Virginia blocked an attempt to weaken the teaching of climate change in elementary and secondary school classrooms. Responding to petitions and protests, the state Board of Education voted Jan. 14 to undo revisions to teaching guidelines that would have cast doubt on global warming and the reasons for it.

The West Virginia case is part of a long-running battle over the first set of national guidelines for science education to require that students be taught that climate change is a scientific fact and mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, were developed by science-education groups and state school systems, led by the National Research Council. They have been adopted by 13 states and the District of Columbia, but face resistance in several states from climate skeptics on school boards and in legislatures.

"Climate is the major sticking point in the standards," said Lisa Hoyos, director and co-founder of the national activist group Climate Parents. "Even if a state has been involved in writing, they go home and the politics win out," she said. "Kids are caught in the crossfire."

The standards matter because science guidelines for kindergarten through 12th grade haven't been revised since 1996, advocates say. The proposed updates, completed in 2013, would standardize what students learn, make them more competitive globally and erase disparities in the teaching of science subjects, particularly climate science. Debates about science education in the past centered on evolution. This time, resistance focuses almost entirely on the treatment of man-made global warming, several education experts told InsideClimate News.

Read the rest of this story at InsideClimate News.

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