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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/10/20

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

A busy week in New Mexico. Plus NCSE is proud to have been honored by
the California Science Teachers Association, while NCSE's Glenn Branch
contributes a column on the scientific consensus on climate change to
The Science Teacher.


After a public hearing in Santa Fe in which the flawed science
standards for New Mexico were consistently opposed, the Public
Education Department is promising to restore part of the removed
content on evolution, the age of the earth and climate change -- but
important concerns remain.

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."

On October 16, 2017 -- also the day ending a public comment period on
the standards -- the Public Education Department held a public hearing
on the standards in Santa Fe. As a well-illustrated article in NM
Political Report (October 17, 2017) noted, "People started arriving an
hour-and-a-half before the start of the 9:00 a.m. hearing, and others
didn't leave until almost 2:00 p.m. Some New Mexicans stood in line
for more than three hours, waiting for their names to be called so
they could enter the building, stand before public officials in a
small auditorium and speak for three minutes each."

There were complaints that the meeting was not properly organized. The
executive director for the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
told NM Political Report that the Public Education Department's
failure to accommodate the crowd adequately violated the state's Open
Meeting Act, and the Albuquerque Journal (October 18, 2017)
subsequently reported that state senator William Soules (D-District
37), who was unable to enter the building, filed a complaint with the
state attorney general, asking for the adoption of the standards to be
postponed until the hearing is properly held.

Despite the lack of organization and a delay caused by a false fire
alarm, the hearing proceeded, with a string of concerned New Mexicans
expressing their opposition to the proposed standards, virtually
without exception. The Albuquerque Journal (October 18, 2017)
editorially commented, "Herbert Van Hecke, a physicist at Los Alamos
National Laboratory, seemed to sum up what nearly everyone in Monday's
audience felt: 'Science is based on facts, evidence and hard work. We
are not doing kids any favors by allowing scientific flimflam into the

Conspicuous by his absence was Secretary-Designate of Education
Christopher Ruszkowski. State representative Bill McCamley (District
33) commented that his absence was "interesting," adding, "his absence
shows just how poor these changes are," according to a report from
KOB-4 in Albuquerque (October 16, 2017). In its October 18, 2017,
editorial, the Albuquerque Journal similarly commented, "New Mexico
Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski
did his cause no favors Monday by skipping a public hearing on his
department's controversial changes to proposed science standards."

Then, in what the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 17, 2017) described as
a "surprise turnaround," the Public Education Department announced
that it "will revise its controversial proposal for new science
teaching standards, adding concepts that had been omitted, such as
evolution, global warming and Earth's age." Four standards, two at the
middle school level and two at the high school level, will be restored
to match the corresponding standards in the NGSS on which they were
based. The superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools described the
announcement as "a step in the right direction."

But concerns about the content remain. The Public Education
Department's announcement failed to address the absence of a middle
school standard about embryological evidence for evolution or the
omission of "due to human activity" from a high school standard about
Earth's systems, for example. As NCSE's Glenn Branch previously told
Mother Jones, "These changes are evidently intended to placate
creationists and climate change deniers," a diagnosis confirmed by a
former Public Education Department employee who told Mother Jones that
her superiors "were really worried about creationists and the oil

The same employee -- Lesley Galyas -- revealed further details about
the revision of the standards to Education Week (October 18, 2017):
"she said .... senior officials at the department -- with the
knowledge of former education secretary Hanna Skandera and Ruszkowski,
then a deputy secretary -- repeatedly asked for revisions to the
standards on evolution and human contributions to climate change,
among other things, that they felt were controversial." After warning
that the revisions would "backfire," Galyas eventually resigned from
the agency.

Moreover, there is frustration that the standards are still limited to
only the performance expectations of the NGSS, excluding important
elements that are also included in the standards. Many individuals and
organizations, including the New Mexican Science Teachers Association,
have called for the adoption of the entire NGSS without revisions in
preference to the proposed standards. Ellen Loehman of the New Mexican
Science Teachers' Association told Education Week that, without the
whole framework of the NGSS, "you can relegate science to being taught
as a textbook class. I'm holding my breath."

Speaking to the Santa Fe Reporter (October 18, 2017), Loehman expanded
on the importance of adopting NGSS in its entirety. She was
paraphrased as saying, "[T]he state's proposed standards leave out
much of the framework that make the Next Gen standards so successful,"
and added, "Suppose someone has a book on how to build a beautiful
Victorian house and they tear out the first two pages ... And they
say, 'This is what it's supposed to look like. I want you to build
this for me.' ... Where's the list of materials, where are the
instructions, where are the skills I need?"

While praising the restoration of the four standards cited in the
Public Education Department's announcement, the Santa Fe New Mexican
(October 18, 2017) editorialized, "Rather than rewrite standards
behind closed doors, New Mexico should just adopt the Next Generation
Science Standards. That way, politics leaves the debate and school
districts can go about the business of choosing textbooks while
teachers develop new lessons. ... Just adopt the Next Generation
Science Standards and get ready to shake up science education in New
Mexico — the right way."

It remains to be seen whether the Public Education Department will
revise the proposed standards further. According to the Santa Fe
Reporter (October 18, 2017), "Despite the statement issued late
Tuesday night, Ruszkowski has not released a formal version of what
his department spokeswoman says is a new proposal on the way."

For the original Mother Jones article, visit: 

For the NM Political Report's article, visit: 

For the Albuquerque Journal's article, visit: 

For the Albuquerque Journal's editorial, visit: 

For KOB-4's story, visit: 

For the Santa Fe New Mexican's article, visit: 

For the follow-up Mother Jones article, visit: 

For Education Week's article, visit: 

For the Santa Fe Reporter's article, visit: 

For the Santa Fe New Mexican's editorial, visit: 

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


NCSE was selected by the California Science Teachers Association to
receive its Distinguished Contributions Award for 2017. The CSTA


The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) programs support
teachers, engage scientists and organize local communities to ensure
that evolution and climate change are taught without compromise. They
are vigilant in monitoring for anti-science legislation, inaccurate
textbooks, and compromised science standards, and effectively organize
local responses whenever problems arise. Here in California, NCSE has
consistently been responsive to needs of science educators in the
state and have a long track record of supporting CSTA and its members.
Employees of the NCSE have served as CSTA board members, authored
articles for California Classroom Science, and presented at the
California Science Education Conference. Most recently, the NCSE has
taken an active role in CA NGSS. One such example is supporting the
California Science Framework review process by providing public input.
In addition, they supported writers of the CA NGSS Roll Out 4 Grades
6-8 Integrated Learning Sequence by helping to track down data that
could be used to strengthen incorporation of Analysis of Data and
Mathematics and Computational Thinking in the sequence. They also
supplied information and raffle items to each of the Roll Out 4 host
sites so educators would know a support mechanism for the teaching of
evolution and climate change existed. Most recently, with climate
propaganda being sent directly to teachers across the state, they have
been immediately responsive to teachers who needed guidance on
messaging around such tactics. They are an important and valuable
resource to our membership. NCSE exemplifies the vision of the
Distinguished Contributions Award for their leadership, service, and
positive impact.


NCSE's executive director Ann Reid accepted the award at the CSTA's
award luncheon during the organization's annual meeting on October 14,

For CSTA's announcement of the award, visit: 

And for CSTA's website, visit: 


NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch contributed a column, entitled
"Why the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Matters for Science
Education," to the October 2017 issue of The Science Teacher, a
special issue devoted to climate change.

Although upwards of 97 percent of climate scientists accept climate
change, Branch observed, the extent of the scientific consensus is not
always recognized, either by the public in general or by science
teachers in particular.

The consequences are harmful for science education, he argued:
policies and practices that obstruct science teachers from presenting
climate change as they should -- honestly, accurately, and

"Ensuring that both the public and science teachers recognize the
scientific consensus on climate change is clearly vital to improving
climate education," Branch concluded.  "It won't be easy," he added,
"[b]ut there are certainly reasons for optimism."

A brief video accompanying the column, in which Branch rebuts the
claim that scientific consensus requires scientific unanimity by
noting the existence of geocentrist astronomers, is posted on NSTA's
YouTube channel.
October 2017: Why the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Matters for Science Education

For Branch's column, visit:{"issue_id":436454,"page":10} 

For the video, visit: 

And for NCSE's resources on climate change education, visit: 


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

* Guest blogger Kyle McElroy reporting on a Science Booster Club visit
to the Iowa state legislature: 

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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