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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2018/02/09

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

The Idaho House Education Committee all but strips climate change from
a proposed set of new science standards, after dragging its heels on a
decision. And a reminder about Darwin Day.


"After hearing testimony from dozens of students, teachers and
parents, all in favor of newly revised science standards for Idaho
K-12 schools, the House Education Committee voted Feb. 7 to strip out
sections from the standards that referred to the impact of fossil
fuels on the environment -- climate change," reports Boise Weekly
(February 7, 2018).

The 12-4 vote was on a motion proposed by Scott Syme (R-District 11)
-- who led the charge to remove passages referring to climate change
and human impact on the environment from the proposed standards in
2017 -- to remove ESS 3-4-1, "Earth and Human Activity," and all of
the "supporting content" material throughout the standards.

ESS 3-4-1 begins, "Obtain and combine information to describe that
energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses
affect the environment." Negative environmental impacts of energy use
are explicitly mentioned, including "air pollution from burning of
fossil fuels."

Strangely, ESS 3-4-1 was not among the performance expectations
standards rejected by the committee, and then by the legislature, in
2017. A modified version of ESS 3-MS-5, which was rejected in 2017,
was not rejected by the committee in its 2018 vote, although it
acknowledges that "human activities" are among the "factors that cause
climate variability."

In deleting the "supporting content" material from the proposed
standards, consisting of fifty-seven sections, the committee rejected
modified versions of the four remaining passages dealing with climate
change that it rejected in 2017. But it also rejected plenty of
material that it, and then the legislature, approved in 2017.

Sherri Ybarra, the state superintendent of public instruction,
minimized the impact of the removal of the "supporting content"
material, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review (February 7,
2018): "Schools will figure it out. The information will still be
available. It doesn’t need to be a state mandate."

But the science supervisor of the Boise School District, Christopher
Taylor, previously explained to The New York Times (February 6, 2018)
that teachers often need the presence of climate change in the
standards to resist community pressure against its teaching: "It's
these small rural districts ... They will do what the state says."

Boise science teacher Erin Stutzman later told The New York Times
(February 7, 2018) that the committee's decision "disregards science
and the scientists who are out there doing the work," and NCSE's Glenn
Branch added that he regarded the committee's vote as "a continuation
of the assault" on the inclusion of climate change in Idaho's science

The next stop for the standards is the Senate Education Committee,
whose chair earlier told the Spokesman-Review (February 6, 2018) that
he would schedule a review of the standards after the House Education
Committee acted. A concurrent resolution of both houses would be
necessary to reject the standards.

For the story in Boise Weekly, visit: 

For the Spokane Spokesman-Review's story about the House Education
Committee, visit: 

For the stories in The New York Times, visit: 

For the Spokane Spokesman-Review's story about the Senate Education
Committee, visit: 

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


When Idaho's House Education Committee held hearings on a new set of
proposed science standards on February 1 and 2, 2018, it was expected
to make a recommendation. But despite hearing from twenty-eight
testifiers, all in favor of adoption, the committee failed to
recommend approval of the standards. And several members of the
committee objected to passages involving climate change and evolution.

It was the third year in a row that proposed science standards
encountered resistance from the legislature. In 2016, the standards
were rejected as a whole -- ostensibly because of a lack of
opportunity for public comment, but, as NCSE previously reported,
there was reason to think that hostility toward the inclusion of
evolution and climate change in the standards was behind the decision
to reject the new standards.

In 2017, when the standards were resubmitted for the legislature's
approval, the House Education Committee removed five passages
referring to climate change and human impact on the environment before
approving them, as NCSE previously reported. Scott Syme (R-District
11) led the charge against the treatment of climate change in the new
standards. The committee's removal and approval were subsequently
ratified by the legislature.

Now under consideration is a new version of the standards, in which
the five removed passages dealing with climate change and human impact
on the environment have been replaced with versions that continue to
acknowledge human responsibility for recent climate change, but appear
to soften or qualify the acknowledgment. The Idaho state board of
education gave its approval to the standards in the summer of 2017.

At the February 2018 hearings, according to the Spokane
Spokesman-Review (February 1, 2018), Syme said "he's planning to
propose the standards be approved with two sections removed -- one of
the five regarding climate change that lawmakers ordered removed last
year, and one additional one." His proposal seems not yet to have
materialized, however, and it is unclear which standards he finds

Ron Mendive (R-District 3), meanwhile, was perplexed by a standard
that referred to the formation of new species. According to the
Spokesman-Review, Mendive asked, "Are new species being formed at this
time?" and added, "As far as new species, natural selection just kind
of modifies existing species, and actual speciation, new species, I’m
still not aware of anything along those lines."

Among those testifying in favor of adopting the proposed standards
were the chair of the committee that revised the standards, a high
school junior who previously convinced the legislature to name the
Idaho giant salamander the state amphibian, teachers from the state's
public schools and scientists from the state's public universities,
and the public and governmental affairs director for Monsanto, which
employs over a thousand Idahoans.

The chair of the House Education Committee told Idaho Education News
(February 2, 2018) that the legislature would vote on the standards
this session, although no vote is yet scheduled. According to a later
story in the Spokesman-Review (February 6, 2018), if the chambers of
the legislature do not agree to reject all or part of the standards,
they will become permanent.

In its editorial calling for the adoption of the standards, the Twin
Falls Times-News (February 4, 2018) urged, "For a state government
that's placing a lot of emphasis on STEM education -- science,
technology, engineering and math — refusing to accept scientific
consensus, or, at the very least, teach our students the best science
available, is nothing less than shooting ourselves in the foot and
handicapping our children."

For the story from the Spokane Spokesman-Review, visit: 

For the story from Idaho Education News, visit: 

For the later story from the Spokane Spokesman-Review, visit: 

For the editorial from the Twin Falls Times-News, visit: 

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


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than a week
remains before Darwin Day 2018! Colleges and universities, schools,
libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks
across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate
Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of
Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only
to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach
about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education --
which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education
already under way in state legislatures. NCSE encourages its members
and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day
events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the
websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin
Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And
don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day
Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 9-11, 2018, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 202
congregations in forty-three states (and five foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 


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

* Deb Janes reporting on a grant that will help NCSE's Science Booster
Clubs flourish in Iowa: 

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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