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Published on April 23rd, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

10

Fighting For Science In The Classroom, & America’s Future

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April 23rd, 2014 by
 

By Michael Haas, Founder of Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)

Knowledge is power. And in the face of climate change, where time is our enemy, we are putting up a weak fight.

Haas_photo

In stark contrast to the scientific consensus, only 49% of Americans believe that global warming is a result of human activity. In other words, more than half the country either denies global warming entirely or believes it to be a natural phenomenon. When you consider the lack of climate science education in our schools and the billions of dollars being spent to debunk global warming, this widespread misinformation is no surprise. In this time of crisis, we need an informed and engaged public. We need to bridge the gap between what the scientists know about the threat, and what the general public understands. As our planet warms, our focus must be on educating young people so that they are ready to start working on solutions right now.

Over the past few weeks, the climate conversation has once again been energized by a report released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Produced by 2,500 international experts, the IPCC’s report highlights the devastating effects of climate change in every corner of the globe. Record-setting heat waves in Australia and China; flooding in Central Europe, India and Sudan; hurricanes ravaging the East Coast; typhoons plaguing the Philippines; wildfires across Colorado; and devastating droughts in my home state of California. Global warming is beginning to touch us all, and scientists warn that the impact will become increasingly more destructive.

In 2008, deeply concerned by the widespread lack of education and misinformation surrounding the science of climate change, I started the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Our organization aims to bring climate education to 12 million high school students by 2020, knowing that our future depends on the ideas and actions of young people. While ACE has already reached nearly 2 million students across the country with our educational programs, we are fighting an uphill battle. There are over 54 million students enrolled in K-12 education in the US and the vast majority do not have access to climate science education. And at schools that we have reached, we find that ACE programs are often the only climate science resource available to students and teachers.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have the power to help reverse this trend. NGSS will make climate science a staple of the science curriculum in classrooms across the country. The standards are the first major update to K-12 science curriculum in over a decade, and are an interstate collaboration between education agencies, nonprofits and teachers’ associations.

However, instead of embracing this vital improvement in science education, some states are actively fighting against it. Wyoming has included a stipulation in its state budget that forbids state funds from being used to review or adopt NGSS. Groups in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona have pushed bills to require teaching climate change denial in schools. This war on science and our children’s future must stop.

The next generation of inventors, policymakers, and CEOs will determine the fate of the environment and our economy. In order to ensure that these future leaders are up to the challenge, a commitment to comprehensive climate science education is needed today. Investing in science has helped us achieve the seemingly impossible before – from the moon landing, to the Internet, to incredible advances in medicine. It is time that we make that investment once again by quickly implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in all fifty states. Educating our young people about climate science and solutions will help America to lead this global effort.

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  • http://vertimpulse.com Kevin Forrest

    Maybe, just maybe, we should not hang science on issues like climate change, or attempt to tie science to a politically hot button issue. What IS important is that we teach more science in schools. Attempting to push an agenda through education that alienates people, children or parents, is not an effective way to reverse our children’s declining interest in science. If you want to make our schools more effective lets teach things about science that are purely about how science works, and not how it is tied to national and international issues. If we were to teach science properly our future scientists would be able to make logical, fact based, and unemotional arguments and subsequently be able make up their own minds. In my humble opinion that would be the ultimate successful outcome of a science program, but instead people try to inject their own agendas and it descends into tumultuous arguments and we lose the interest of the target audience.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sure, let’s not teach any science that anyone might find objectionable.

      Starting the list: climate change, evolution, vaccination/germ theory, reproduction, geology, archaeology, paleontology, …

      I’m sure our universities will be able to find the future scientists we need from other cultures.

      • Dan Cameron

        Human evolution is not science, it’s cryptozoology pseudoscience.

  • Michael Berndtson

    Maybe it’s time to circle the wagons. Teach those willing to learn. Ignore the rest. Sadly, those on the anti science side are also the ones juiced up on crazy and armed to the teeth.

    Here’s a solution. Areas that take climate science seriously teach the fundamentals like reading, writing and arithmetic or STEM. The rest can go to charter schools based on whatever curriculum the for profit company wants. Maybe finger painting and constitution memorization (pre 1865 amendments) for K through 12. Make sure the paint is pre TSCA (liberal tyranny) and includes plenty of lead and VOCs.

  • Banned by Bob

    So a CEO of a Renewables company is funding an effort to change the way that kids learn science in a way that would be supportive of his business.

    Imagine the outrage if the Evil Koch Brothers did something similar.

    • RobS

      You’re free to be outraged just as we are. The difference speaking as someone who would be outraged is that if and when Koch does it they conveniently neglect to mention the billions of dollars in externalities ranging from a massive burden of morbidity and mortality from particulate emissions and huge environmental damage caused by fossil fuels.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Both efforts are to help the world. Societal net benefits vs societal net loss. That’s the difference.

    • Howeman

      Banned by Bob: Here’s the difference. In the scientific process, ideas
      are critically reviewed and debated by peers within a community of
      experts who have chosen to devote their lives to disciplined study of
      the relevant subject area. Competing theories are evaluated on merit,
      not the political labels of their proponents. Out of this tussle the
      most persuasive ideas, based on reason not blind authority or religious
      dogma, gain adherents. That’s how scientific truth has been advanced
      since the Enlightenment. In Koch world, a small and secretive cadre of
      wealthy interests pump out CRUD – clever rhetoric, untruth and
      disinformation – through public channels (deceptive and misleading
      advertising) and private channels (lobbying of and campaign
      contributions to public decisionmakers). The amplifying power of money
      generates the false perception of scientific disagreement, which in turn
      feeds the citizenry’s natural inclination to complacency and inaction.
      Preservation of the status quo protects much more massive flows of
      money, a slice of which funds more CRUD. It’s a pernicious feedback
      loop — one that has been strengthened in recent years by some of the
      most catastrophic decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. If not interrupted, it threatens to destroy our republic and, indeed, our natural world.
      Haas’s effort to change the equation by educating the citizenry — who,
      in turn, must demand change of a corrupt political system — may be too
      little, too late, but we must applaud him for trying.

    • Dgaetano

      “Imagine the outrage if the Evil Koch Brothers did something similar.”

      If the Koch brothers said “we need better geology taught in school science classes” you think there would be outrage? Honestly I think you’re mistaken.

      • Bob_Wallace

        If the Koch brothers said that we needed better geology taught in the classroom the first reaction from many would be to wonder what scam they are trying pull. That is skepticism they have earned.

        If it turned out that there was no scam then I think most people would welcome their assistance in making our schools better.

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