Critics of new science standards for Kentucky’s public schools made a spectacularly persuasive argument in favor of them last week at a hearing in Frankfort — although it wasn’t their intent and it’s unlikely they realize it.
The comments by some opponents at the hearing were worse than ill-informed. They were outright alarming and made the most compelling case yet that sound, fact-based public education of future generations is the only way for Kentucky to combat ignorance and unfounded fear.
At issue are a set of basic standards for schools to use to design a more sound and rigorous science curriculum meant to better prepare students for college and careers. They were developed over two years by a consortium of 25 states with input from scientists and educators across the nation.
Known as the Next Generation Science Standards, they have been adopted by the state Board of Education and endorsed as critical to public education by such prominent educators as Lee Todd, an engineer, scientist and the former president of the University of Kentucky.
They stem from a Republican-led state law in 2009 designed to upgrade Kentucky’s education standards and to try to pull the state out of the dark ages, education-wise.
But comments from a small but noisy band of opponents suggest Kentucky’s got a ways to go when it comes to science education, according to the account of the hearing by The Courier-Journal’s Mike Wynn. About the only things missing from Tuesday’s hearing held by the state Education Department were the torches and pitchforks.
Opponents called the science standards “fascist,” compared them to Soviet-style communism, repeated the totally-discredited and completely false claim that the voluntary standards are a “federal takeover” of education and even suggested better science standards promote a socialistic view with dire consequences.
“We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks,” a Louisville woman claimed at the hearing.
A Baptist pastor chimed in with one of the main objections of opponents — that the science standards include evolution, the science-based explanation for the origins of life but not creationism, the religious belief God created the world.
“Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have the right to worship almighty God,” he said, offering the wholly unsupported claim that teaching evolution has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social ills.
(Climate change deniers also hate the science standards because they recommend students consider the impact of humans on climate).
Fortunately, there also were some more rational comments at the hearing, largely scientists, educators and others who echoed the recent comments of Dr. Todd in calling for more rigorous science-based education to help Kentucky students compete in the world.
Daniel Phelps, an environmental geologist, noted, “unlike many of the people who commented” he had “actually read” the standards and said they contain none of the menacing features cited by opponents.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Scare tactics and science education
This from the Courier-Journal: