Facts aren't always convenient. But that doesn't make them any less factual. And ignoring them doesn't make them go away.

That's a special message for Wyoming legislators, who last week helped this state block a new set of national education standards for teaching students science.

The problem? The Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by national science education groups and representatives from 26 states, say that human-caused climate change is real.

Some legislators attached a footnote to the state budget that blocks the state from adopting the standards. One of the footnote's authors, Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said the "social implications" of the standards on global warming wouldn't be good for Wyoming, with its long history of mineral extraction.

That's misguided and irresponsible. It's not the standards that aren't good for Wyoming. It's lawmakers' decision to shortchange our students.

Ignoring the facts will do nothing to change them. Lawmakers' shortsighted strategy will do nothing but ensure Wyoming children have to pursue higher education to learn about the effects of climate change.

Legislators are in a fine position to support Wyoming's energy industry while taking steps to curb its effects on our natural resources. The partnership between Wyoming and the energy industry is one to be proud of. 

As they proved this month, however, what legislators are not equipped to do is determine science standards for Wyoming students.

In fact, given the legal confusion surrounding the exact meaning of the budget footnote that blocks the science standards, they aren't even capable of writing a clear directive on what path the state should take. Education advocates still don't know: Has the state ruled out considering the standards entirely? Or does Wyoming have the option to adopt an amended version, whitewashing the truth about climate change?

You don't have to have scientific knowledge to become a legislator. So a 30-member panel of science specialists vetted the standards and unanimously recommended that the state board of education adopt them. Our lawmakers, deciding they knew better, ignored that endorsement. 

What you do need to have scientific knowledge to do, however, is find a lucrative job in the burgeoning high-tech sector, such as at data centers. Our state is actively trying to encourage this sort of business. The University of Wyoming is planning a $30 million energy research facility and taking donations from energy companies. The university's focus on research is heartening, but students shouldn't have to pursue higher education to learn evidence-supported science.

In fact, the university's plans for research aren't limited to how companies can extract energy more efficiently. The focus also includes how we can do this sustainably, in a way that will ensure our top industry can survive for generations to come.

It's the prudent, proactive approach. And lawmakers have done exactly the opposite.

It's irresponsible for state legislators to let their own unwillingness to face reality shape the minds and career prospects of Wyoming's students. It's also unfair to our environment, which won't get the attention it needs if legislators continue to pretend our world isn't changing and humans aren't contributing to it.

Legislators owe it to our children to do better. Students need a solid grasp of data-supported science, especially if they are going to be part of Wyoming’s energy future, no matter what that looks like.

(16) comments

Cowboy Joe
Cowboy Joe

Our state looks as silly as Kansas and the religious whackos with this move-I'm pretty sure Matt knows better, politics in education in the worst kind of way.

pappy
pappy

I agree Cowboy. What gives this bunch yahoos the right to decide what our children get taught. Science changes over time. New theories come along and are tested and those that stand up become the best science available. Because some don't agree with what the current science says doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught. The energy industry is important to WY but that doesn't mean we should ignore what is happening. the energy industry should be looking for ways to mitigate the effects rather than trying to cover them up ( look at the article on ozone at Pinedale). If Teeters and his croonies have a different a competing theory let the students hear it. Lets not hide the truth simply because it's gives some industry a black eye.

Dr_GS_Hurd
Dr_GS_Hurd

Like they say in Mississippi, "We are not on the very bottom. Thank God for Alabama."

pappy
pappy

Now they are both cheering for Wyoming

Swen
Swen

"You don't have to have scientific knowledge to become a legislator."

No, and you don't have to have scientific knowledge to sit on the Star-Tribune editorial board either. This OpEd makes it sound as if rejecting the Next Generation Science Standards is an attack on Science in all it's forms, when it's just possible the legislature might be more opposed to the political agenda behind global warming and the hype it's proponents use to promote it than with the science behind it.

Does the climate change? You bet it does. 15,000 years ago most of North America north of the 40th parallel was under a sheet of ice up to a mile thick. During the mid-Holocene 5-9000 years ago areas of Wyoming and the surrounding region were covered with open, blowing sand dunes. Between about AD 1550 and 1850 temperatures fell causing widespread crop failure and famine. In fact the geologic and historic records show that the climate changes much more radically than anything the anthropogenic global warming enthusiasts predict. Oddly enough I learned all this before anyone had ever heard of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The climate changes, it always has, it always will, and sometimes it changes without our help. The real question is why, and there we have a great deal yet to learn*. Science is a process, not a destination. As that great philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out, progress in science is made by those who question the dominant paradigm, not by those who defend the dominant paradigm as "settled science", that's just a rhetorical device meant to foreclose debate.

Furthermore, science is not a democratic process, of course the consensus supports the dominant paradigm, that's what defines the dominant paradigm, but as meteorologist Alfred Wegener demonstrated, the consensus is often wrong. When Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift in 1912 geologists everywhere scoffed -- Wegener wasn't even a geologist, what did he know(!?) -- and they continued to scoff all the way into the 1960's, yet now plate tectonics is accepted theory. One man was right, the consensus was wrong, and the history of science is replete with such examples.

Scientists read Thomas Kuhn, they know about Alfred Wegener and all the many other cautionary tales of hubris in the scientific community. Thus, even if I knew nothing about some scientific topic, as soon as someone started to claim a consensus and declared the science on that topic settled I'd be forced to conclude that person had some agenda other than strictly promoting the advancement of science.

*In the immortal words of Ambrose Bierce, Education is 'that which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.' It will ever be so.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

Dear Editorial Board, I wasn't aware that "No Child Left Behind Act" was repealed with Obama's signature? But if that not the case? Why should Wyoming be forced to educate its youth with the Next Generation Science Standards of pro-socialist-pro gay science this has to offer?
And since this law [to my knowledge] has not been repealed that I'm aware of. It still makes sense that "local control" of what the private lives of Wyoming Mommies and Daddies decide for their off-spring is taught.
Arguing the other way around is nothing more than, becoming a Socialist, Federalizing private lives. That's what Putin does in Russia.

Dr_GS_Hurd
Dr_GS_Hurd

Since it is clear you have never seen anything that is in the new standards there is no reason to think you could understand them.

But on the off chance you might try, here is what the oil companies are afraid of:

www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf‎

I was involved slightly, and I was personally concerned with how the standards were being rolled-out publicly. I had no problems with their content.

Robotoad
Robotoad

Years ago smoking tobacco products was promoted as a healthy activity. Big tobacco even employed doctors to sell cigarettes for them. When SCIENCE learned it was very dangerous, big tobacco campaigned hard to keep their customers in the dark. We all know the truth now. This is no different. Big tobacco was hit with massive lawsuits and fines and it continues today. Big oil should do the right thing and teach our kids the truth and how to develop solutions to fix the environmental catastophe that has damaged our one and only Earth.

LVHS77
LVHS77

Where are the irrefutable facts that man is powerful enough to cause the earths climate to change. You people have God Complexes.

Dr_GS_Hurd
Dr_GS_Hurd

http://www.nasa.gov/content/crescent-moon-rising-and-earths-atmosphere

Take a look. We live under a tiny sliver of air on less than 20% of the earth's surface.

It is in a delicate balance that only takes a little push to knock it over.

As for the "irrefutable facts?" You will just lie that they don't exist. This is exactly what the oil company owned Wyoming politicos just did. But, on the off chance, I recommend reading "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars." As least you will learn what right-wing political whores sold, and how much they took.

Dewd
Dewd

Guv Matt Mead used his line item veto pen on ten items in the new state budget. He could have and should have used it 11 times, to strike down this silly Teeters tenet.

But wait. His Baldness is one of those Republicans who refuses to believe in anthropogenic climate change , and denies any policy initiative meant to mitigate man caused climate change . We dare not upset the Hydrocarbon Oligarchy in this state... so Matt allows the baby to be thrown out with the bathwater in order to appease the coal, oil, and gas robber barons.

I will say this about Wyoming and its attitude towards Science. Any graduate students in Medieval Anthropology can come to the Cowboy State and observe it firsthand instead of excavating Old Europe and the regressive Roman Catholic Church prior to 1500 A.D.

Wyoming is what America----no , make that Catholic Gaul ----was.

Hill Town Trader
Hill Town Trader

The "Science Standard" rejected was pure climate change dogma, with no alternate comparative thought allowed. I'm glad that this ideological made was stricken from the schools.

In another state, my daughter was REQUIRED to celebrate winter solstice, Earth Day and May Day in school. Winter concert was all Solstice carols. Science curriculum devolved into "the world will come to an end if we don't eliminate hydro carbons/people/industry" When I pointed out that perhaps pagan religions had no more place in public schools that mandatory Christianity I was attacked as a heretic. No voice asking for balance or alternate thought was allowed. The Eco-theologists have a hammerlock on children's minds in that state.

I am glad that the highly intolerant Eco-theologists were denied a foothold in Wyoming, and tolerance of alternate thought is allowed to flourish.

Pioneerpete
Pioneerpete

You want to talk about politics dominating discussions on science, this is one topic where politics wipes out any consideration of facts. Through 2012 and 2013, a number of polls have queried Americans about science and climate change. These polls were sponsored and conducted across a wide range of political biases. In questions about climate change, the causes of climate change, and proper responses to climate change, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the scientists are correct in their assesment of the situation. The aggregate results show 89% of Democrats, 62 % of Independents, and 38% of Republicans supporting the scientists. A smaller majority of Americans are in agreement that climate change results from man caused effects, again along the same political breakdown. However, when they are asked about the proper course of action to be taken by government in response to the situation, Republican respondents favoring any governmental action fall completely out of agreement with the Independents and Democrats. Ideology is the best explanation of climate change deniers. One does not have to be from Wyoming, or be in the pocket of the energy industry to knee jerk on science issues the way our governor and legislature did.

CareyMitchell
CareyMitchell

Teeters completely shortchanged the public process and our democratic process. What was the public testimony on this important decision, in favor or against? What's that? No one can testify on footnotes in the appropriations committee, the floor of either house, in conference committee or when the Governor signs the budget bill? Teeters the Tyrant. Run a bill like your 89 colleagues on policy items and defend it in daylight, and leave the budget bill for the spending of money.

Triple BB
Triple BB

Teeters is a clown. The guy probably spends his spare time down by the river smoking old corn stalks...

BobBonnar
BobBonnar

Bear with me while I follow the Editorial Board's logic here please. SF104 was the right thing to do because we must prevent education from being politicized by appointing (not electing) officials who have influence over education policy and practices. According to the CST, that legislation was necessary to "take politics out of education."
Now the author of SF104 introduces legislation (in the form of a budget amendment) that blocks adoption of science standards that include universal acceptance of man-caused climate change theory, and he is guilty of politicizing education? Isn't this the same Editorial Board that champions statewide education accountability- driven and defined by an elected legislature- as opposed to local control of education as a means to increase achievement in Wyoming schools?
So does the CST now believe legislators should be appointed by the governor too, lest they allow politics to influence their decisions on education?
But wait, the governor failed to veto the prohibition on adoption of the science standard, so he's obviously allowing politics to influence his decisions on education also, which by extension of the Editorial Board's logic means that should become an appointed position too.
Now we just have to decide who gets to appoint all of these people- perhaps we should just ask the well-compensated education consultants already being employed by the State of Wyoming to make the selections. I'm sure they could adjust their fee scale accordingly.
Or maybe it's time to admit that politics will always play a role in education because it is the means by which citizens have a role in determining education policy and practice. Or is this publication's position that average citizens simply aren't smart enough to make such weighty decisions?

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