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New Jersey science education standards may be blocked by climate contrarians

Posted on 8 July 2014 by howardlee

In the face of America’s slumping education performance in Science (currently ranked 23rd in the world), US educators have been trying to adopt new science education standards. But the state-by-state adoption of the science standards has been slow, held up by anti-science sentiments in state legislatures that do not agree with teaching evolution or climate change.

In Wyoming the climate contrarians succeeded in blocking the teaching of accepted science.

Now New Jersey is the latest state to debate the adoption of the new curriculum. Stunningly enough this is not a sure thing in this state, despite it being home to Edison and Bell Labs (birthplace of the transistor and the radio telescope), incubator of many  Nobel prizes and host to most major pharmaceutical companies, and of course several fine universities including Rutgers and Princeton (Nash’s and Einstein’s alma mater).

According to "Education Week," an American education news site, "External political influence that has an issue with human-induced climate change or evolution," may yet prevent New Jersey’s adoption of the new science standards.

In response, "Climate Parents" has launched a campaign to petition the New Jersey State Board of Education. "Loud fringe groups have gone to war against our children’s right to learn about climate change." said John Friedrich of Climate Parents. "They’ve launched coordinated attacks in each state that has considered adopting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of K-12 education standards meant to ensure that kids learn 21st century science, including climate science."

Edison, Nash, Einstein, et al must all be spinning in their graves.

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. I'm going to have to challenge you on this one.

    I actually live in New Jersey and have been following this issue, but haven't seen any indication that the standards might not pass. Indeed, the 'Education Week' article linked in the text seems to be more acknowledging that evolution and global warming deniers exist, and therefore could theoretically try to oppose adoption, than suggesting that anyone has actually done so.

    To quote some other passages from the same article;

    'That said, opponents on the basis of those factors "haven't come out of the woodwork yet [in New Jersey]," Heinz told me. "And our current standards have both those ideas in them already."'

    'A recent article from online news service NJ Spotlight said the state board seems enthusiastic about the new standards and that educators have known "the shift has been coming for a few years."'


    I think New Jersey's deceased (and living) scientists can rest easy on this issue. Our governor's climate denying policies in relation to the state shoreline would be a very different story.

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  2. "America’s slumping education.. (currently ranked 23rd in the world)"  Like many, I assumed that applied to K-12 only, but this article indicates that this mediocrity extends through college.  A quote: "America’s perceived international dominance of higher education... rests largely on global rankings of TOP universities.... The fair way to compare the two systems... would be to conduct something like a PISA for higher education. That had never been done until late 2013, when the O.E.C.D. published exactly such a study... As with the measures of K-12 education, the United States battles it out for last place, this time with Italy and Spain. Countries that traditionally trounce America on the PISA test of 15-year-olds, such as Japan and Finland, also have much higher levels of proficiency and skill among adults."

    Fortunately, Wyoming is pioneering a new way of teaching these inconvenient truths: ignore them.  CBDunkerson@1: glad to see NJ isn't about to follow Wyoming's lead.

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  3. CBDunkerson - I hope you are right, and we'll find out tonight. Clearly Climate Parents were sufficiently concerned to mobilize and organize a petition, having seen the adoption derailed elsewhere. 

    I too live in NJ. From my conversations it's clear that most people here drink the Fox Kool-Aid when it comes to climate change, and regular editorials in the main newspaper - the Star Ledger -  are very climate skeptical (like this and this). My eldest son went from K to 12 in NJ without a single science fair, and more than half his friends did not believe in evolution. Science seems to take much more of a back seat in education and popular discourse here compared to my experience in the UK.

    Here's hoping that the NJ BOE does the right thing for our kids.

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  4. Result! The NJ BOE did adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which includes climate science.

    The NJ BOE press release is here. Interestingly it is being spun as a re-adoption of existing standards rather than an adoption of new standards.

    CBDunkerson - you were right!

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  5. I think this was one of those situations where few enough wingnuts were paying attention that the BOE could get away with making a rational decision. It is entirely true that NJ has plenty of crazy climate deniers who could have demanded the new standards be blocked, and the BOE (all appointed by the GOP governor) would then likely have done so. I suspect that even Christie knows global warming is a real problem, he just can't admit that without alienating his supporters.

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