Proposed science standards under attack in Utah


Climate change and evolution were the primary targets of complaint from "nearly every person who grabbed the microphone" at a March 26, 2019, hearing in Salt Lake City, Utah, about a proposed set of high-school-level state science standards (PDF), according to the Salt Lake Tribune (March 27, 2019), even though the standards' treatment of those topics is scientifically accurate and pedagogically appropriate. 

One speaker described the idea that human activity contributes to global warming as "a hoax" and another was opposed to the inclusion of the phrase "climate change," for example, while another objected to the presentation of the Big Bang, while another complained that his daughter was taught in her science class that the DNA of humans and chimpanzees is 99 percent similar: "That does not allow for a diversity of opinion."

As NCSE previously reported, there was similar controversy over the inclusion of evolution and climate change in a new set of Utah middle school science standards in 2015. A draft was criticized, inter alia, for suggesting that global temperature is constant and for using the phrase "change in species over time" in preference to "evolution." These features were not present in the final version of the standards approved by the board in December 2015.

Only a representative of the Utah Society for Environmental Education was on hand to speak in favor of the standards, but the story observes that "science educators throughout the state were largely behind the push for the updates" and quotes NCSE's encouragement to its members and friends in Utah to "insist on the importance of evolution, climate science[,] and the nature of science in Utah science education" in commenting on the standards.

The March 26, 2019, hearing was the last in a series of six opportunities for the public to comment on the draft standards in person, but comments will be accepted on-line until April 11, 2019. The standards will then be revised in response to the comments and eventually submitted to the state board of education for its approval; if approved, they would not be implemented before the 2020-2021 school year.