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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/10/06

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Lots of news from New Mexico. A new survey on climate change. And the
return of the Darwin Day Roadshow.


Opposition to the new state science standards proposed in New Mexico
-- which omit references to evolution, human responsibility for
climate change, and the age of the earth -- is coming fast and

As NCSE previously reported, the proposed standards are modeled on the
performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards,
which have been adopted by eighteen states and the District of
Columbia so far. But, as Mother Jones (September 15, 2017) observed,
"the draft released by New Mexico's education officials changes the
language of a number of NGSS guidelines, downplaying the rise in
global temperatures, striking references to human activity as the
primary cause of climate change, and cutting one mention of evolution
while weakening others."

Observing that "it is essential in a modern science curriculum for
students to explore science concepts in an open manner, including
human impact on climate change, age of the earth, and evolution," the
Los Alamos School Board recommended adoption of the NGSS with the
addition of certain New-Mexico-specific standards rather than the
proposed standards, according to the Los Alamos Daily Post (October 3,
2017). Similarly, the Santa Fe School Board unanimously voted to
recommend the adoption of the NGSS, according to the Santa Fe New
Mexican (October 3, 2017).

The Santa Fe School Board went further by agreeing to stage a teach-in
at the Public Education Department in Santa Fe on October 13, 2017.
Applauding the idea, the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 3, 2017)
editorialized, "Public outcry against these so-called standards has
been loud and nearly unanimous in opposition. That's a good thing,
because these standards are not up to snuff. State bureaucrats,
especially new Public Education Department Secretary Christopher
Ruszkowski, should stop by the teach-in. They could stand to learn a
few things."

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 3, 2017) reported that it
was unable to ascertain the source of the divergences of the proposed
standards from the NGSS: "it remains unclear which individuals and
groups participated in the development of the teaching standards.
Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski declined to name them, saying only
that the process for drafting the proposal is 'how PED does
business.'" The newspaper's public records request elicited only the
response "There are no documents in the custody or control of the PED
that appear responsive to this request."

Whatever the source of the divergences, the New Mexico Science
Teachers' Association expressed its opposition to the proposed
standards in a letter dated October 3, 2017. The NMSTA objected to the
changes regarding "the topics of evolution, earth history and climate
change," arguing, "the proposed changes inject political opinions that
do not represent the consensus of scientists worldwide," as well as to
the omission of all of the NGSS except for the performance
expectations. The organization recommended the adoption of the entire
NGSS unedited instead.

The Environmental Education Association of New Mexico, while not
appearing yet to have issued a statement as to its position, recently
conducted a series of meetings to solicit public input on the proposed
standards, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 4, 2017), at
which "[c]omments ... echoed much of the negative feedback that has
been aimed at the Public Education Department since it posted the
proposed new standards on its website last month. Critics accuse the
state of watering down such scientific concepts as evolution and
human-caused factors affecting climate change."

Previously, the National Education Association -- New Mexico,
representing about half of the teachers in the state, issued a
statement (posted by the Los Alamos Daily Post, September 20, 2017),
calling for the adoption of "the entirety of the Next Gen standards
... not the version proposed by the P.E.D.[,] which substitutes
non-scentific notions where science should be taught." The statement
continued, "we shouldn't confuse political debates about responding to
climate change with misleading debates about whether climate and
evolutionary science is valid and should be included in standards for
science education in our state."

Likewise, in a September 28, 2017, letter, the LANL Foundation, which
supports education in northern New Mexico, similarly objected to the
modifications in the proposed standards  that "contravene the
principles of inquiry science, primarily in three content areas:
evolution, the age of the earth, and man-made climate change" as well
as to the omission of all of the NGSS except for the performance
expectations and to the inclusion of additional, New-Mexico-specific,
standards. Like the NMSTA, the foundation recommended the adoption of
the entire NGSS unedited instead.

Joining the NMSTA were two national organizations of science teachers.
In a letter dated September 22, 2017, the National Science Teachers
Association expressed (PDF) its opposition to the changes to the NGSS,
described as intended "to advance a political view," and recommended
that "only science should be taught in science classrooms." And in a
letter dated October 2, 2017, the National Association of Biology
Teachers objected (PDF) to "key alterations to select standards" that
seemed like "an attempt to inject political influence into the

As NCSE previously reported, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Las Cruces
Sun-News, and the Albuquerque Journal have all editorially condemned
the proposed standards -- the Journal memorably describing them as
"fly[ing] in the face of accepted science" and "breathtaking in their
offensiveness" -- as have New Mexico's senators Tom Udall (D) and
Martin Heinrich (D), and two state representatives, G. Andrés Romero
(D-District 10) and Bill McCamley (D-District 53), who introduced
legislation that would have required New Mexico to adopt the NGSS and
who blame the flaws in the proposed new standards on Governor Susana

There is still time for concerned New Mexicans to protest the proposed
standards. The Public Education Department will be accepting written
comments on the standards from the public through October 16, 2017 and
will then hold a public hearing in Santa Fe.

For the Mother Jones story, visit:

For the stories about the Los Alamos and Santa Fe school boards, visit: 

For the Santa Fe New Mexican's article on the mysterious origins of
the revisions, visit: 

For the NMSTA's letter (PDF), visit: 

For the Santa Fe New Mexican's story about the EEANM's events, visit: 

For the NEA-NM's and the LANL Foundation's statements, visit: 

For the NSTA's and the NABT's letters (both PDF), visit: 

For information on the comment period and the public hearing on the
standards, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit: 


A new survey from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of
Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs
Research examines American attitudes toward climate change. Asked "Do
you think climate change is happening, do you think climate change is
not happening, or aren't you sure?" 72% of respondents thought that
climate change is happening, while 9% thought that it is not
happening, 19% were unsure, and 1% skipped or refused to answer. A
press release added the detail that "85 percent of Democrats and 61
percent of Republicans" thought that climate change is happening.

Respondents who thought that climate change is happening were then
asked, "Do you think climate change is caused entirely by human
activities, caused mostly by human activities, caused about equally by
human activities and natural changes in the environment, caused mostly
by natural changes in the environment, or caused entirely by natural
changes in the environment?": 15% of respondents said entirely by
human activities and 40% said mostly by human activities, while 32%
said equally by human activities and natural changes, 11% said mostly
by natural changes, and 2% said entirely by natural changes.

According to the topline report of the survey, "Interviews for this
survey were conducted between August 17 and 21, 2017, with adults age
18 and over representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Panel members were randomly drawn ... and 1,038 completed the survey
-- 861 via the web and 177 via telephone. Interviews were conducted in
English. ... The overall margin of sampling error is +/- 4.1
percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, including the
design effect. The margin of sampling error may be higher for

For the press release, visit: 

For the topline report (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate change, visit: 


The Darwin Day Roadshow is returning! The Roadshow is a project of the
BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action and the Society for
the Study of Evolution, in which scientists and educators share their
enthusiasm for evolutionary science with students, teachers, and the
general public on the occasion of Charles Darwin's birthday, February
12. "Our teams talk to students, teachers and the general public about
their research in evolutionary science, describe what it takes to
become an evolutionary biologist (and what some of the rewards and
challenges are), and convey why evolutionary science is relevant to

And the results are delightful: as Craig McClain of NESCent (which
formerly operated the Roadshow) wrote at Pacific Standard (May 15,
2011), "for all of us the Darwin Day Road Show was a gratifying
adventure that no one will forget. From the landscapes with their
silos, combines, center pivot crop circles, high school gymnasiums, to
the indelible interactions we had along the way, we absorbed it all."
Applications from schools interested in hosting the Roadshow,
especially those who would not be likely to have access to Darwin Day
activities otherwise, are now being accepted -- now until December 20,

For information about the Darwin Day Roadshow, visit: 

And for Craig McClain's essay in Pacific Standard, visit: 


Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Eugenie C. Scott musing on the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial and the liberal arts: 

For NCSE's blog, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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