In response to pressure from parents and members of the state school board, Utah’s middle school science standards have been, shall we say, rearranged, postponing all discussion of climate change until 8th grade.
Instead, according to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune, 6th graders will learn how the greenhouse effect “maintains Earth’s energy balance and a relatively constant temperature.”
The decision disappointed Ogden School District science specialist April Mitchell, who told the Tribune that the omission would “create a misconception that our temperature currently is constant. I think taking that out is withholding evidence from students.”
Ricky Scott, from the State Office of Education, joined members of the board in maintaining that the move was not political, but rather an attempt to introduce scientific ideas incrementally. But according to Mitchell, even 4th graders are asking about climate change: “It’s something that is in the news,” she said. “They hear about it. They see that it’s not snowing in the winter.” If they’re asking questions about it, she said, “then they’re old enough to learn about it.”
Meanwhile, the new standards for eighth-grade courses include discussions of the underlying causes of climate change—however, the Tribune points out that they provide no suggested “language” to cover the subject, which for some parents is (unfortunately) a controversial one. “I think you would feel a little more confident in teaching that global temperatures are rising if you were backed by a standard,” said Mitchell.
This is by no means the worst blunder when it comes to teaching U.S. students accurate climate science. In Florida, a fifth grade science textbook from Pearson inaccurately tells students that “it is hard to determine why a climate has changed. Scientists have had debates on these changes and will probably have more in the future”; in Texas, a group of activists called the Truth in Texas Textbooks Coalition have employed a textbook ratings system to push educators to teach global warming as an opinion rather than as fact. On the bright side, Alabama students will learn about climate change and evolution for the first time ever starting in 2016.
Utah, along with the rest of the Southwest, is expected to face—and in some cases is already experiencing—flooding, erosion, increased wildfires, drought, insect outbreaks, a reduction in air quality, and agricultural uncertainty in the coming years as a direct result of climate change. This slow-motion horror film is life as these sixth graders (and sixth graders everywhere) will always know it, and politically-motivated obfuscation only deepens the betrayal.
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