Texas is one of just six states to receive an “F” grade for its teachings of climate change in public schools, according to a Thursday report by the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network Education Fund and the National Center for Science Education.
A natural gas facility near Coyanosa, Texas, Aug. 12, 2020. (Jessica Lutz/The New York Times)
The report said Texas’ standards “largely ignore the issue” of climate change and generally fail to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis. The findings come as Texas is in the process of updating its science curriculum standards, which will be finalized next month.
“Scientists have long warned that climate change would lead to increasingly extreme weather events, and it’s critical that education policymakers in Texas and elsewhere act with the urgency the crisis requires,” Kathy Miller, president of the TFN Education Fund, said in a release. “This means making instruction on climate change a priority when revising science standards for all grades. Let’s at least help students get the tools they need to solve a critical problem they didn’t have a hand in creating.”
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Three scientists independently reviewed states’ curricula for the study and evaluated the standards based on four principles: climate change is real; it is caused by humans; it negatively affects nature and society; and it is possible to mitigate.
They then judged how comprehensively and explicitly those tenets were included in the curricula and how well the standards prepared students to discuss climate change throughout their educational careers and beyond.
Texas received an F on each of the principles, except for teaching students that humans cause climate change, for which it received a D.
The researchers said that, generally, states with poor grades either ignored climate change entirely or presented it as scientifically uncertain. Many also did not address ways to combat the climate crisis.
Climate change has emerged as a top issue in Texas as the State Board of Education continues the process of reviewing and updating the state’s science curriculum standards, which last underwent a major update in 2009. The omission of climate change from the standards dominated public testimony last month as the board considered primary changes to the standards.
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Advocates and student testifiers accused the board of ignoring one of the most pressing social and scientific crises in a generation.
At its September meeting, the board made some inroads on the subject, adding language referencing “environmental change, including change due to human activity” — but activists say those additions aren’t enough.
The Republican-controlled board will reconvene next month to consider any last-minute changes to the standards and give the final OK.
Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia also received an F in the study. Just one state – Wyoming – received an A, while most states fell in the B-range.
“Climate change is a relative newcomer to American science education, and as a result, the treatment of climate change in standards varies in accuracy and completeness from state to state,” said NCSE Executive Director Ann Reid. “In some states, regrettably, ideology has been allowed to override science.”