Right now, this “Writer from Wyoming” writes for right science and right education.
Our new state budget states that “neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated…for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards.”
Oddly, this footnote was inserted by a legislator from Lingle, where the University of Wyoming conducts so much science. Apparently, the footnote was motivated by those who would censor evolutionary biology and climate science in K-12 education.
Join me on a trip from Lingle to Laramie, and together we’ll see how the science state lawmakers is choosing to ignore is used and explored on a daily basis in Wyoming.
Early morning, I am at the UW James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center. “WyoWinter” feed pea has again survived a Wyoming winter. I bred these plants to integrate wheat and livestock production on the Central Great Plains. Perhaps these peas will make our agriculture more profitable and sustainable. I bred for multiple uses: grain, forage, nitrogen-fixing cover crop and more.
Most important, I bred “WyoWinter” pea for local adaptation according to solid evolutionary principles.
Early in the last century, science united Mendel’s laws of inheritance with Darwin’s evolutionary biology. From Sir Ronald Fisher’s “Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection” arose the “Breeder’s Equation” for genetic gain. The latter guides breeders as we strive to improve crops and livestock. Really, so much research at Lingle is evolution in action.
All our crops are genetically improved via evolutionary principles. Likewise, every cow-calf operation draws on Fisher’s statistical methods. Every Wyoming cow-calf rancher is a breeder.
From Lingle to Laramie
Mid-afternoon, returning home, I drive south down Interstate 25. Our golden-domed state Capitol lies to the east. Then, wending my way west up Interstate 80, I see the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center to the north, devoted to understanding local effects of climate change, which is of such great concern to us in agriculture.
I wonder why the Wyoming Legislature would put so much political muscle and so many dollars into an effort to bring NCAR to Cheyenne to determine local effects of 400 parts-per-million CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, but then deny such knowledge to K-12 young people?
Late afternoon, I am back on the UW campus. Here, heavy construction equipment pours the foundation for the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Enzi building will house 32 new teaching laboratories. There, students can conduct experiments that demonstrate CO2 is a greenhouse gas, transparent to incoming short-wave radiation from the sun, but opaque to outgoing long-wave radiation. Thus, students will come to understand that climate change is an inevitable result of human activity. Yes, global warming is man-made.
A special laboratory for UW Atmospheric Sciences will interface with NCAR in Cheyenne to study climate change.
Also in the Enzi building, students will extract DNA from diverse species. Students will sequence that DNA. Thus, students will, via molecular genetics and comparative genomics, drive just so many more nails into the coffins of creationism and intelligent design as they come to understand the genetic basis of evolution of life on Earth.
Early evening, I pick up this newspaper to read that our state Board of Education is flummoxed with censorship of Next Generation Science Standards. The standards are high standards, generated bottom up from 26 states, endorsed top down by the National Academy of Sciences, unanimously accepted by a large and diverse group of Wyoming K-12 teachers, approved by so many Wyoming parents and already adopted by nine states.
Science is science: 2+2=4 everywhere. Really, there is no other side of the story.
Science is global. And Wyoming’s children must become globally competitive.
In science, one size fits all. Evolution is cast in stone, like the fossils. Evolution is cast in our DNA. And, an inconvenient truth be told, climate change is anthropogenic.
Sure, at the frontiers of new knowledge, we have some disputes. Thus, science advances.
And no, The standards are not perfect. But “next-gen” must become “now-gen.” Personally, I find the term next-generation somewhat overreaching. Also, I would like to see more focus on agriculture, the foundation of civilization. But we in Wyoming can do that as we adopt high next-generation standards.
Dreaming of Lingle
In bed, falling in and out of sleep, I pray, "please Lingle-Fort Laramie High School, and all Wyoming high schools, send your best to Laramie. Perhaps via our fine community colleges. But, please, send young people understanding basic science. We’ll take it from there."
Truth be told, we must raise the bar for Wyoming students. Let's not dumb our children down.