Reaction to Wyoming's blocking the NGSS


The Casper Star-Tribune (March 20, 2014) editorially decried the state legislature's decision to block the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards as "misguided and irresponsible." As NCSE previously reported, a footnote in Wyoming's budget for 2014 precludes the use of state funds "for any review or adoption" of the NGSS. One of the footnote's authors acknowledged that the NGSS's treatment of climate change is a reason for the prohibition. Matt Teeters (R-District 5) told the Star-Tribune (March 14, 2014) that the NGSS "handle global warming as settled science," adding, "There's all kind of social implications involved in that that I don't think would be good for Wyoming."

In its editorial, the Star-Tribune commented, "It's not the standards that aren't good for Wyoming. It's lawmakers' decision to shortchange our students. Ignoring the facts will do nothing to change them. Lawmakers' shortsighted strategy will do nothing but ensure Wyoming children have to pursue higher education to learn about the effects of climate change." The editorial added, "It's irresponsible for state legislators to let their own unwillingness to face reality shape the minds and career prospects of Wyoming's students. It's also unfair to our environment, which won't get the attention it needs if legislators continue to pretend our world isn't changing and humans aren't contributing to it."

NCSE's Mark McCaffrey told Climate Wire (March 18, 2014) that Wyoming's economic dependence on fossil fuels was likely to have played a role in the legislature's decision: "The fact of the matter is that they just have a lot of natural resources, particularly in terms of coal, oil and natural gas," he said. "I guess some within the state view that as conflicting with what science tells us about the human contribution to climate change." Pete Gosar, a member of the state board of education who opposed the decision, urged, "Science education should be left to the scientists," adding. "I think politics and politicians should, for the most part, stay out of it."

McCaffrey also discussed the significance of Wyoming's decision with High Country News's blog (March 19, 2014): "Until now, McCaffrey says, climate change has been taught inconsistently around the country, if at all. 'Teachers avoided it altogether, or they would teach it as controversy or debate,' he says. That's problematic because while the fact that climate change is happening and that people have a role in it is the subject of debate in the political sphere, it isn't in the scientific world. Not only that, but climate change is one of the biggest scientific and environmental challenges of our time — not exactly the kind of thing it makes sense to ignore until college."

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (March 26, 2014) subsequently added its editorial disapproval of the legislature's decision, writing, "these officials are more interested in playing politics than they are in letting Wyoming's young people develop the expertise needed to compete in a global economy. Apparently the politicians will try to protect Wyoming's energy economy at any cost, even if that makes the Cowboy State the laughingstock of the nation." The editorial observed, "the prevailing theory, based on the evidence, is that the Earth is warming and that humankind is playing a role in that, mainly through the use of carbon fuels."

Updated on March 26, 2014, by the addition of the last paragraph.