It is time to reflect on the Next Generation Science Standards in terms of current tides running through Wyoming.
Let me review. A real spin has been placed on the NGSS issue and using that spin, Gov. Mead has attempted to distance from his poor judgment that allowed the blockage of the adoption of the NGSS as a budget footnote (no kidding) and from passing the buck off to anyone that’s handy. The Wyoming Board of Education was ready to adopt the NGSS when legislative interference, to quote Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, “used the sneaky maneuver,” of the budget footnote proposed by Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, to manipulate that decision on behalf of a small special-interest group who insist on stripping science from the NGSS.
The NGSS are a set of science standards developed by leading scientists and science educators from 26 states and built on a framework developed by the National Academy of Sciences. Science standards for Wyoming schools haven't been updated since 2003 and are six years overdue. The Wyoming science standards revision committee made up entirely of Wyoming educators unanimously recommended adoption of these standards to the state Board of Education after 18 months of review.
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Fast forward. More recently Mary Kay Hill, the governor’s right hand in education, inappropriately inserted herself in decisions of the last Board of Education meeting. She then went on to advise a lengthy convoluted letter that was sent out to the general public twisting reality into a statement that “scientists are creating a political issue out of climate science." The irony of this conceit is that Gov. Mead and the legislative body inappropriately created a political football out of student education. Budget bills have never been an appropriate means to manage education policy and the state Legislature overstepped its jurisdiction by inserting itself into the decisions of the state Board of Education.
Fast forward once more. Currently a small minority is making truly audacious claims that they speak for all Wyoming residents. They say that no one in Wyoming wants the NGSS adopted except outside interests that have stepped in to influence education decisions against citizens’ wishes. They claim that contemporary science education is not important to Wyoming.
Really? Do Wyoming citizens not want their students to learn contemporary peer reviewed science that has been found excellent by Wyoming scientists and teachers? The small opposition minority making this claim is working hand in glove with the national right-wing organization Truth in American Education, who have been supporting state efforts against the Common Core and NGSS across the country – truly the pot calling the kettle black. TAE does not want science taught to students at all!
So let me ask you, do you want your children and grandchildren to have access to what highly respected Wyoming teacher Elizabeth Horsch, a veteran of over 30 years in standards development, described as “the best science standards she has ever seen?" Do you want education that has been approved by Wyoming scientists and that would impart best skills in critical thinking for college, careers and the contemporary world our students live in? Or do you want science standards as presented by ideological groups who don't accept the findings of science that are hijacking our students’ educations?
Are the people who claim that the NGSS is not wanted in Wyoming really speaking for you? They are absolutely not speaking for me. I live in Wyoming. I am a Wyoming resident, born and raised. I am a member of the coalition Wyoming for Science Education. And I am a parent engaged with fellow Climate Parents across Wyoming. The numbers of Wyoming parents, teachers and students who call for adoption of the NGSS with climate science intact are huge.
If you want the best science education for your children and grandchildren and you don’t want any group to speak for you, then make yourselves heard loud and clear. Write letters. Pick up the phone. It will take consistent effort from many of us to demand that Gov. Mead and the Wyoming Legislature accept the original conclusion of the highly merited committee appointed by the state Board of Education. Otherwise you will watch the best interests of Wyoming students get washed away in the hysteria of a small anti-science minority driven by a national right wing group – and political manipulation.
Cate Cabot is a resident of Kelly and a member of Wyoming for Science Education and Wyoming Climate Parents.