Climate change may soon be coming to every classroom in the country.
Pending nationwide science standards will recommend that K-12 students at public schools learn about climate change to help fill a knowledge gap concerning the subject, while skepticism will be discouraged.
“Only one in five [students] feel like they’ve got a good handle on climate change from what they’ve learned in school,” Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education told NPR, adding that many teachers will also need climate change science training. “So the state of climate change education in the U.S. is abysmal.”
New science standards are being developed by the National Research Council with help from 26 states to identify science that “all K–12 students should know,” according to the website promoting the standards.
It has been almost 15 years since the last time the National Research Council and the American Association for Advancement in Science published recommendations on which states base their standards.
“There was never a debate about whether climate change would be in there,” says Heidi Schweingruber of the National Research Council. “It is a fundamental part of science, and so that’s what our work is based on, the scientific consensus.”
Schweingruber added that much consideration was put into how to teach what can be a depressing topic and not alarm students.
“We’ve heard stories of students who learn about climate change,” said McCaffrey. “Then they go home and tell their parents, and everybody’s upset because the parents are driving their kids to the soccer game, and the kids are feeling guilty about being in the car and contributing to this global problem.”
NPR notes that educators say the controversy surrounding climate change encourages many teachers to avoid the topic or show competing viewpoints — like Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” against the British documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle” — which they say just causes more confusion about the issue.
“To the extent that these standards do paint a picture that I think runs counter to the scientific evidence, we’re going to make sure that we point that out,” says James Taylor, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute. The conservative think tank is developing a curriculum that questions man-made global warming.
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