New national science standards that make the teaching of global warming part of the public school curriculum are slated to be released this month, potentially ending an era in which climate skepticism has been allowed to seep into the nation’s classrooms.
The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve, and more than two dozen states. They recommend that educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school and incorporate it into all science classes, ranging from earth science to chemistry.
By eighth grade, students should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming),” the standards say.
They’re “revolutionary,” said Mark McCaffrey, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit that defends evolution and climate education and opposes the teaching of religious views as science.
The 26 states that helped write the standards are expected to adopt them. Another 15 or so have indicated they might accept them—meaning climate change instruction could make its way into classrooms in 40-plus states.
James Taylor, a senior fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute, which is developing a school curriculum that promotes climate skepticism, said the standards’ stance on climate change is based on “unscientific speculation and hype.” But he also said the group has no plans to fight their adoption by the states.
The nation’s largest education publishers already are studying how to incorporate the new standards into their materials. They likely will appear in some of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s materials as early as next year, said Tony Artuso, director of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for the company.
The standards are also being fast-tracked at McGraw-Hill.
(Next page: More details about the standards and their likely adoption)