NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/12/14
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A creationist legislator in Kentucky says that he won't push for creationism there, there is a mixed result for climate change in Nebraska's new state social studies standards, and newspapers in Indiana denounce the antievolution bill expected in that state's legislature. Plus a new issue of RNCSE is available on-line, and NCSE's Minda Berbeco appears in California Classroom Science.
CREATIONIST RESTRAINT IN KENTUCKY The new chair of the Kentucky Senate Standing Committee on Education "has no intention of using his new role to help push his personal belief in creationism into the curriculum of public schools," reports the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 12, 2012). Mike Wilson (R-District 32) was among the state legislators who, in August 2012, expressed concern about the presence of evolution in the state science standards and associated end-of-course testing, as NCSE previously reported. According to the Courier-Journal, Wilson then said, "My concern is that our students are indoctrinated into one way of thinking without allowing them to have intellectual freedom," adding, "And that really bothers me." His remarks were remembered when he was recently appointed to chair the committee. The Courier-Journal (December 13, 2012) editorialized, "Religious ideology has no place in public education. Sen. Wilson needs to park his personal beliefs outside the committee room if he truly wants to use his new chairmanship to make a difference in Kentucky." Apparently in agreement, Wilson told the Courier-Journal that although he believes in creationism, he is not interested in pursuing the issue in his new role in the Senate. He explained, "Number one, I don't think there’s sufficient support for it within the General Assembly. Number two, I don't think that's the most important thing by any means that we need to be focused on right now." Previous legislative activity aimed at undermining the teaching of evolution in Kentucky's public schools includes House Bill 169 in 2011 and House Bill 397 in 2010, both based on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; both bills died in committee. Kentucky is apparently unique in having a statute (Kentucky Revised Statutes 158.177) on the books that authorizes teachers to teach "the theory of creation as presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation." Yet the Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006) reported that in a November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school districts, none was teaching or discussing "intelligent design." For the story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20121212/NEWS01/312120142/Kentucky-state-Sen-Mike-Wilson-says-he-won-t-push-creationism-education-committee For the editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20121213/OPINION01/312130011/1016/OPINION/Editorial-Kentucky-s-state-Senate-creationism And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit: http://ncse.com/news/kentucky A MIXED RESULT IN NEBRASKA Climate change is included in the new set of state social studies standards for Nebraska -- but in a way that misrepresents the scientific consensus on global climate change. In particular, the adopted indicator 12.3.5.c reads, "Evaluate successful solutions and problems related to the physical environment from a geographical perspective (e.g., the role of irrigation, contour farming and hybrid seeds in expansion of agriculture in the Midwest; the role of air conditioning in the industrialization of the South; recent global climate change theories, and evidence that supports and refutes such theories)." The indicator is part of the new set of social science standards adopted by the Nebraska state board of education on December 7, 2012. In a previous draft of the standards, the same indicator (then labeled 12.3.5.d) read, "Evaluate environmental geographical issues related to the natural environment (e.g., climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ozone layer, air pollution, water pollution, disposal of waste, flood plain management)." But as the Omaha World-Herald (November 16, 2012) observed, climate change (along with American exceptionalism) was a major point of contention during public testimony on the draft standards. In the end, the World-Herald (December 7, 2012) subsequently reported, "Eleventh-hour changes in an earlier draft appeared to have soothed board members' concerns over the treatment of 'American exceptionalism' and climate change." The result is equivocal, explained NCSE's Minda Berbeco, who worked with concerned Nebraskans to support a scientifically accurate treatment of climate change in the standards. "On the one hand, climate change wasn't even mentioned in the previous set of social studies standards, and still isn't mentioned in the current set of science standards [adopted in 2010], so it's good for it to be acknowledged in the social studies standards now. On the other hand, the wording of the new indicator encourages social studies teachers to misrepresent global climate change as scientifically controversial. Whether in the social studies classroom or the science classroom, it's scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible to preach climate change denial." For the adopted standards, visit: http://www.education.ne.gov/AcademicStandards/Documents/NE_SocialStudiesStandardsApproved.pdf For the stories in the Omaha World-Herald, visit: http://www.omaha.com/article/20121116/NEWS/711169903#social-studies-standards-creating-nebraska-s-own-mason-dixon-line http://www.omaha.com/article/20121207/NEWS/712079912/1685 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Nebraska, visit: http://ncse.com/news/nebraska INDIANA NEWSPAPERS DECRY ANTIEVOLUTION BILL Indiana's newspapers are reacting to the prospective antievolution bill in Indiana. As NCSE previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) plans to introduce a bill that, in the words of the Indianapolis Star (December 4, 2012), "allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons." Kruse told the Star, "I would call it 'truth in education' to make sure that what is being taught is true ... if a student thinks something isn't true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true." While Kruse was not quoted as mentioning evolution in particular, his history of antievolution legislation is suggestive. The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel (December 6, 2012) remarked, "Proposed 'truth in education' legislation by Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn won't mention the terms 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' or 'evolution,' but don't doubt for a second that this is one more attempt to force a religious debate into science classrooms," adding, "The General Assembly should have none of it." The editorial echoed the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association in commenting, "The burden on teachers would be great," and quipping, "It's also easy to imagine students gaming the process and creating all sorts of havoc. OK, teacher, prove we actually landed on the moon. And, oh, while you're at it, prove it isn't made of green cheese." Tim Swarens, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 7, 2012), offered a prediction about the bill: "Perhaps it's an article of faith, but I choose to believe that Bosma [the speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives], Behning [the chair of the House Education Committee] and a majority of lawmakers will see that Kruse is badly misguided in pushing a bill that, if implemented, would undercut educators, embolden classroom mischief-makers, and send the wrong message to the rest of the nation about a state that wants to grow its science and technology sectors." Describing it as a misguided effort at legislative micromanagement of the classroom, Swarens concluded, "Kruse's bill should quietly expire as the 2013 session unfolds." The Lafayette Journal and Courier (December 7, 2012) was especially concerned about Indiana's reputation, commenting, "For a state that lays claim to being a leader in education reform, it sure has a funny way of showing it when it comes to science education ... Indiana doesn't need another reason to look like the backwater hinterlands." The editorial also noted that Kruse is on record about his motivation, quoting him as saying, with reference to the prospective bill, "I'd guess 80 percent of Indiana would be oriented with the Bible and creation. Where you're at, at Purdue or IU, you might have more who are for evolution. But once you get out away from there, out into the hinterlands, I think you’ll see a lot more people receptive to it." And Matthew Tully, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 8, 2012), remarked, "Less than a year after Kruse and others in the state Senate failed to push an embarrassment of a bill through the legislature that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes, the Auburn Republican is at it again. ... It's a silly idea at a time when seriousness is needed in the General Assembly. It's a distraction when the legislature should be focused on core education issues. It's a reminder that ideology far too often gets in the way of tackling important issues under the Statehouse dome. And it's an attempt to walk through the back door a bill that -- thanks to sensible lawmakers, outraged voters and the courts -- can't make it through the front." For the story in the Indianapolis Star, visit: http://www.indystar.com/article/20121204/NEWS05/212040324/Indiana-senator-has-plans-other-than-creationism-bill For the editorial in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, visit: http://www.news-sentinel.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20121206%2FEDITORIAL%2F121209788%2F1015 For Tim Swarens's column in the Indianapolis Star, visit: http://www.indystar.com/article/20121209/OPINION13/212090320/Tim-Swarens-Meddling-lawmakers-intrude-local-control For the editorial in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, visit: http://www.jconline.com/article/20121209/OPINION01/312090009/Editorial-Beating-evolution-s-bushes For Matthew Tully's column in the Indianapolis Star, visit: http://www.indystar.com/article/20121208/NEWS08/212080322 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/indiana RNCSE 32:6 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 32, number 6 -- features Lorence G. Collins and Barbara J. Collins offering "More Geological Reasons Noah's Flood Did Not Happen." For his regular People and Places column, Randy Moore discusses the career of Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, who in the 1920s banned the use of biology textbooks that covered evolution. And James Shapiro responds to them review of his book by Laurence A. Moran. Plus a host of reviews of books on the history and philosophy of biology: Robert Arp reviews the anthology Evolutionary Theory: Five Questions, Francesca Merlin reviews the anthology Transformations of Lamarckism, Andrew J. Petto reviews Carol Kaesuk Yoon's Naming Nature, Doren Recker reviews Elliott Sober's Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?; Brian Regal reviews Michael Ruse's Defining Darwin, and John S. Wilkins reviews the anthology The Cambridge Companion to Darwin (second edition). All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will shortly be receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 32:6, which, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, contains news from the membership, a regular column in which NCSE staffers offer personal reports on what they've been doing to defend the teaching of evolution, a new regular column interviewing NCSE's favorite people, and more besides. (Not a member? Join today!) For the table of contents for RNCSE 32:6, visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/issue/current/showToc For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join NCSE'S BERBECO ON TEACHING CLIMATE CHANGE NCSE's Minda Berbeco contributed "Getting the Science Right: Teaching Climate Change in the Classroom" to California Classroom Science, a publication of the California Science Teachers Association. "As the newest Programs and Policy Director here at the National Center for Science Education, I am constantly asked where educators can find good lesson plans and classroom activities to teach about climate change," she writes, citing three resources in particular -- the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network, the Alliance for Climate Education, and the ECO2School in Sonoma County, California -- as models of good scientific and pedagogical practice. Berbeco concludes, "Students will need to have a good understanding of the science of climate change in order to make educated and thoughtful policy decisions about the consequences of climate change in the future. Unfortunately, many teachers avoid the subject, because they feel poorly prepared to address the many questions that can arise or are concerned about bringing controversy into their classroom. In addition, the resources are not yet in place at the state level to encourage them to present the science accurately and effectively. With lessons and programs such as the ones described here, though, it is becoming easier for teachers to integrate climate change into their science teaching." For Berbeco's article, visit: http://www.classroomscience.org/getting-the-science-right-teaching-climate-change-in-the-classroom For the resources she cites, visit: http://cleanet.org/index.html http://acespace.org/ http://eco2school.org/ And for NCSE's resources on teaching climate change, visit: http://ncse.com/climate Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join