Guest Opinion by James Sawhill –
Weather and Climate and Earth and Human Activity
Recently, Jim Steele posted a piece here relating to A Framework For K-12 Science Education Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas – That “Framework” language has recently morphed to this newer “Next Generation Science Standards”. To be clear, we’re addressing the same teaching and learning standards. The education industry seems to be searching for what they might better name this. Jim Steele was proposing a set of activities for science teachers and students using data and graphing for learning and recognizing that such activities are lacking in anything brought forward so far. I wish us to look at a specific target standard.
[References are cited with links provided at the end of the essay. I have provided more references than citations for any who would like to explore this complex territory.]
In 2011, a consortium began to reconsider the 15 year old Common Core standards for K-12 education in the US and, for the first time, codify standards for science education. They now call these Next Generation Science Standards and they are linked to the original Common Core.
The original Common Core standards were limited to English/Language Arts and Mathematics.  Those standards are owned (by copyright) by the National Governor’s Association (NGA). In large part the NGA financed the efforts – albeit with federal funds and state taxes – and states were encouraged to adopt them and thereby become eligible for federal grants. I’ve included references , , and  at the end for any wishing to probe the density of the Common Core.
“The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by a consortium of 26 states and by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, and Achieve, a nonprofit organization that was also involved in developing math and English standards. The final draft of the standards was released in April 2013” , 
“As of March 2014, eleven states had adopted the standards: California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia (D.C.)”. 
West Virginia and New Jersey have since adopted these standards while South Carolina and Wyoming have either blocked their adoption or sent consideration back to committee. Texas has decided to craft its own standards.
While adoptions to date amount to 25% of the States, there is mounting pressure from Departments of Education to have legislatures take up approval. These standards are politically and policy charged and may attract attention in upcoming US elections, although that I am aware, both Democrats and Republicans nationally have so far avoided the combination of climate and education.
Here’s a first “Standard” –
Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science
Guiding Principle: Humans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts
- Climate information can be used to reduce vulnerabilities or enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems affected by climate change. Continuing to improve scientific understanding of the climate system and the quality of reports to policy and decision-makers is crucial.
- The impacts of climate change may affect the security of nations. Reduced availability of water, food, and land can lead to competition and conflict among humans, potentially resulting in large groups of climate refugees.
- Humans may be able to mitigate climate change or lessen its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- A combination of strategies is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The most immediate strategy is conservation of oil, gas, and coal, which we rely on as fuels for most of our transportation, heating, cooling, agriculture, and electricity. Short-term strategies involve switching from carbon-intensive to renewable energy sources, which also requires building new infrastructure for alternative energy sources. Long-term strategies involve innovative research and a fundamental change in the way humans use energy.
- Humans can adapt to climate change by reducing their vulnerability to its impacts. Actions such as moving to higher ground to avoid rising sea levels, planting new crops that will thrive under new climate conditions, or using new building technologies represent adaptation strategies. Adaptation often requires financial investment in new or enhanced research, technology, and infrastructure.
- Actions taken by individuals, communities, states, and countries all influence climate. Practices and policies followed in homes, schools, businesses, and governments can affect climate. Climate-related decisions made by one generation can provide opportunities as well as limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation. Steps toward reducing the impact of climate change may influence the present generation by providing other benefits such as improved public health infrastructure and sustainable built environments. 
There’s a lot more in other Standards, but this should be a good first bite. Plus here’s the “Climate Literacy” booklet each kid will get – I encourage you to download a copy.
Implications and Reactions
An early criticism appeared in the NY Times at the time of the release of the Next Generation Science Standards:
“The focus would be helping students become more intelligent science consumers by learning how scientific work is done.” and “Leaders of the effort said that teachers may well wind up covering fewer subjects, but digging more deeply into the ones they do cover. In some cases, traditional classes like biology and chemistry may disappear entirely from high schools, replaced by courses that use a case-study method to teach science in a more holistic way”. , [my bold]
More concern from James Rust at masterresource.org:
“However, it is clear not only that human activities play a major role in climate change but also that impacts of climate change—for example, increased frequency of severe storms due to ocean warming—have begun to influence human activities. The prospect of future impacts of climate change due to further increases in atmospheric carbon is prompting consideration of how to avoid or restrict such increases”.
“Even greater dangers from the science portion are teaching people to accept the political use of science and not follow fundamental principles of scientific inquiry – propose a theory about the behavior of Nature and continually test that theory by experiment”.  [my bold]
UK Precedent against Propaganda (we’re not alone in the US)
About the time that the new US Standards were released, The Global Warming Policy Foundation issued a report, Climate Control—Brainwashing In Schools. 
Statements in the Report’s Executive Summary are as follows:
“We find instances of eco-activism being given a free rein within schools and at the events schools encourage their pupils to attend. In every case of concern, the slant is on scares, on raising fears, followed by the promotion of detailed guidance on how pupils should live, as well as on what they should think.
In the main body of the report is the statement, ‘The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri has suggested that a focus on children is the top priority for bringing about societal change, and that by ‘sensitizing’ children to climate change, it will be possible to them to ‘shame adults into taking the right steps’”. 
Shame on us. And, please move to higher ground.
By James Rust — April 21, 2014