In late July in Frankfort, Kentucky, supporters and critics of the Next Generation Science Standards clashed during a hearing over proposed changes that could be made to the science curriculum of the state’s public schools. The new science standards were developed with input from officials in Kentucky and twenty-five other states with the hope of making science curricula “more uniform across the country.”
Those who spoke in support of the new education standards said they are “vital if Kentucky is to keep pace with other states and allow students to prepare for college and careers.” Supporters feel the new standards “will help beat back scientific ignorance.” Critics—on the other hand—claimed that the new standards were “fascistic” and “atheistic” and promoted thinking that could lead to “genocide” and “murder.”
According to the Courier-Journal, nearly two dozen parents, teachers, scientists, and advocacy groups commented during the Kentucky Department of Education hearing on the Next Generation Science Standards—which are a broad set of guidelines that were developed in order to revise K-12 science content that would meet the requirements of a 2009 law, which called for educational improvement.
Blaine Ferrell, a representative from the Kentucky Academy of Sciences, said, “Students in the commonwealth both need and deserve 21st-century science education grounded in inquiry, rich in content and internationally benchmarked.” Dave Robinson, who is a biology professor at Bellarmine University, said that neighboring states had been more successful in recruiting biotechnology companies. He added that Kentucky “could get left behind in industrial development if students fail to learn the latest scientific concepts.”
But the majority of comments reportedly came from opponents of adopting the new science standards. The critics “questioned the validity of evolution and climate change and railed against the standards as a threat to religious liberty, at times drawing comparisons to Soviet-style communism.”
Mike Wynn (Courier-Journal):
Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister in Louisville who runs an Internet talk-radio program, called teachings on evolution a lie that has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions.
“Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Singleton said. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.”
Another critic of the new standards claimed that they would “marginalize students with religious beliefs.” She said they could lead to the ridicule and physiological harm of such students in the classroom and that they could also “create difficulties for students with learning disabilities. The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them.” She added, “We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.”
An environmental geologist who spoke in support of adopting the New Generation Science Standards said that he was “offended by comments suggesting that evolution leads to immorality and ‘death camps,’ calling it a horrible misrepresentation of scientists. He said that he—unlike many of the critics who had commented at the hearing—had actually read the standards. “Everything is actually based on evidence — arguments from evidence are actually given priority in the Next Generation Science Standards.”
According to Kevin Brown, Kentucky’s associate education commissioner and general counsel, comments made at the standards hearing “will be reviewed by department staff and summarized into a statement of consideration with formal responses. Board members will then consider the comments and responses in August and decide whether to make changes or advance the standards to legislative committees for approval.”
Robert Bevins, the president of Kentuckians for Science Education, said he expects that the board will send the standards forward without changes. Let’s hope that Bevins is right.
SOURCES & FURTHER READING
Kentucky: Next Generation Science Standards (Kentucky Department of Education)
Next Generation Science Standards for Kentucky (National Center for Science Education)
Kentucky’s new science standards draw heated debate (The Spectrum)
Sen. Mike Wilson | Science standards include troubling assumptions (Courier-Journal)
Science Standards Draw Fire From Ed. Leader in Kentucky Senate (Education Week)