Uptick in anti-science bills at state level

Our colleague Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education tells Paulina Firozi of the Washington Post of an uptick in the number of anti-science bills introduced at the state level. These bills threaten how climate change may be taught in the classroom. Mr. Branch notes that he has already seen more activity in the last 2 1/2 months than he usually sees in an entire year. Predictably, these bills call for “removing language about climate science from statewide standards to repealing those state standards for science instruction or by broadly requiring ‘balance’ in the teaching of ‘controversial issues,’” according to Ms. Firozi.

A Connecticut lawmaker, for example, has introduced a bill to eliminate the Next Generation Science Standards and, presumably in case that bill fails, to remove the section on climate change. He claims, pretty much incorrectly, that there is “continuing scientific debate over how much global warming humans are causing and the amount of warming.” I said “pretty much incorrectly” only because the amount of warming is not known precisely, but then neither is the height of Mount Everest.

Another bill introduced in Florida wants schools to teach “controversial theories” in a “balanced manner.” We are familiar with that ploy, but the sponsor of the bill essentially claims that it does not target climate change or evolution. Two other bills in Florida call for balanced treatment of controversial issues; Mr. Branch thinks that the bills would “expand the ability of Floridians to challenge instructional materials to which they take exception.”

Ms. Firozi reports that “[n]ationwide, there is overwhelming support for education about global warming … – 79% of adults believe schools should teach about climate change causes and potential solutions.” Even in Connecticut and Florida, where the offending bills have been introduced, the rate is around 80%. Indeed, Democratic Representative Christine Palm of Connecticut this year introduced a bill to require teaching of climate science in elementary school; she thinks that NGSS is not strong enough. A Washington state senator has likewise introduced a bill that would require schools to teach science “with special reference to the environmental and sustainability standards.”

These developments are encouraging, and they cannot happen fast enough.