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Teachers "feeling the heat" over climate change

"The U.S. political debate over climate change is seeping into K-12 science classrooms, and teachers are feeling the heat," according to a report in Science (August 5, 2011; subscription required). Science educators are increasingly reporting attacks on climate change education: Roberta Johnson, the executive director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, commented, "Evolution is still the big one, but climate change is catching up." Her assessment was confirmed by a poll of NESTA's members, which found that climate change was second only to evolution in eliciting protests. And climate change is now routinely yoked with evolution as "controversial" in antievolution legislation such as the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008.

Ian Binns, a science education researcher at Louisiana State University, told Science that a law such as Louisiana's, which misdescribes established scientific theories such as evolution as controversial, "tells our students and teachers that there are problems that there aren't" and distort their understanding of the nature of science; NCSE's Joshua Rosenau added, "Science is not about providing balance to every viewpoint that's out there." NCSE is now monitoring controversies over the teaching of climate change as well as controversies over the teaching of evolution, but the scope of the problem is as yet unclear; as Rosenau explained, "Just like with evolution, it's difficult to know what a given teacher in a given classroom is teaching."