While science standards call for teaching about climate change, instruction often influenced by politics, money and ideology
New NYSSBA report surveys research on climate change education; offers suggestions for school boards
FOR RELEASE: August 31, 2017
CONTACT: David Albert
New state science standards require instruction in climate change, but what students are taught about the topic may hinge on the political views of their teacher.
That's one of the findings of a new report from the New York State School Boards Association examining research into climate change education. The report, "When Politics Enters the Classroom: Teaching about Climate Change," explores the intersection of money, politics and ideology with science in our nation's classrooms.
"When it comes to teaching about climate change, it certainly appears that politics and economics, not science, are driving the debate," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer.
That's particularly important now because the transition to new science standards in New York begins in 2017. Those standards deal with climate change and the role humans play in climate change. Nationally, many states have adopted the "Next Generation Science Standards," which also include the topic of climate change.
NYSSBA's research report found that instruction on climate change is hindered by many factors, including insufficient coursework on the topic in teacher education programs and a lack of updated textbook content. The report also cites national surveys of science teachers and the general public which show that one's political identity and affiliation is a strong factor in how one views climate change.
In conjunction with the report, NYSSBA surveyed New York State school board members and found that 70 percent of respondents support teaching about climate change in New York's public schools. Of those, 86 percent believe schools should teach that humans contribute to climate change.
The report also highlights attempts by interest groups and state lawmakers throughout the nation to influence how climate change is taught in schools and challenge scientific consensus. For example, one research group recently mailed science teachers books and DVDs that question man's role in climate change. Lawmakers in other states have proposed so-called "academic freedom" bills that promote the teaching of science as "two-sided" issues rather than as fact.
"In an era where public officials openly question scientific research, how do schools approach the topic of climate change in the classroom? What's at stake is how a generation of students thinks about climate change," said Kremer.
The report recommends that school boards provide training on the topic for science teachers and suggests that school districts team up with third-party organizations to provide project-based learning that allows students to apply their knowledge about climate change at the local level.
To read the report, click here.